Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement Wednesday calling for a “transparent, independent investigation” into the shooting of Patrick Lyoya who was killed on April 4 after a traffic stop. She said she spoke to Lyoya’s family and “our hearts are with them and the Grand Rapids community who are dealing with unimaginable pain and loss.”
“He had his whole life ahead of him,” she said of Lyoya.
Whitmer’s personal outreach to Lyoya’s family stood out to James Craig, the former Detroit Police Chief.
Craig told Fox News Digital he can’t recall any time when Whitmer called him when one of his officers died in the line the duty, whereas he’d get calls from former Gov. Rick Snyder, FBI Director Christopher Wray and former Attorney General William Barr to offer condolences.
“I can’t remember one time where I’ve ever gotten a call from the governor expressing sorrow or support,” Craig told Fox News Digital. “Not one. Unfortunately, I’ve had to deal with several officers who were killed in the line of duty.”
Craig, a Republican who is challenging Whitmer for governor, said the contrast of outreach “feels political to me.” He said Whitmer may have reached out to the Detroit mayor in those circumstances — he doesn’t know — but he says a governor should call the chiefs directly and “should be at the funeral” for the fallen.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s not a real friend of policing,” Craig told Fox News Digital.
A spokesman for Whitmer, Bobby Leddy, didn’t comment on whether the governor called Craig directly, but he said that “when a member of law enforcement dies in the line of duty, Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist II immediately turn their attention to the families and loved ones.”
The governor’s office provided 11 examples when the Whitmer administration lowered flags across the state and issued statements of condolences for fallen police officers and firefighters, including Detroit Police Officer Rasheen McClain.
“Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist II have called family members or met with them at funerals to offer their deepest condolences and the assistance of the state of Michigan as they go through an unimaginable loss,” Leddy said in a statement. “Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist also lower the flags across the state in honor of fallen law enforcement or firefighters, and the flag is presented to the families.”
At least three Detroit police officers died while Craig was chief and Whitmer was governor, according to “The Officer Down Memorial Page” that tracks police deaths.
Grand Rapids police released video this week of the shooting of Lyoya, which has sparked protests in Grand Rapids and demands for justice from his family who want the officer who killed their son criminally charged. They’ve said the shooting to “back of the head” was an unjustified use of fatal force and tantamount to an “execution.”
The officer, a White man who has not been identified, allegedly pulled Lyoya over on the morning of April 4 because his car’s tags didn’t belong to the vehicle.
Lyoya, who is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, got out of the car before the officer could reach him, according to the footage from police. The officer asked for his license and told him to get back in the car, but Lyoya refused, then started running away.
According to the video released by police, after a brief foot chase, the officer grabbed Lyoya and the two started struggling for the officer’s Taser. The Taser was deployed twice, but didn’t make contact, according to police. After about two minutes, the video shows the officer pulled his handgun and shot Lyoya once in the head, killing him.
“You see a police officer escalate a minor traffic stop into a deadly execution,” Lyoya family attorney Benjamin Crump said Thursday of the videos.
Whitmer’s statement after the shooting said prosecutors will consider the evidence, follow the law and “take appropriate action on charges.”
“Justice is foundational to safety, and without justice, we are all less safe,” she said.
Another GOP challenger to Whitmer, Tudor Dixon, put out a statement in support of the police officer, saying Lyoya refused to comply with officer, “chose to take control” of the officer’s Taser and “to physically and aggressively resist.”
She blasted Whitmer for taking “the side of the criminal” and said she’d expect nothing less from the “defund the police” party. Dixon also criticized her “Republican opponents” for “cowering in fear” and issuing “mealy-mouthed ‘let’s wait and see’ statements.”
“I stand unequivocally with the police officer and our law enforcement officers in general,” Dixon said in a statement.
Craig, however, backs Whitmer’s call for an investigation and said he doesn’t know all the facts to say whether the officer acted appropriately — and neither does Dixon.
It would be “totally improper for me, without knowing all the facts, to say everything that happened in this instance was proper.”
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