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Autopsy reveals Congolese man shot in the head by Michigan police officer

Forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz uses a chart to demonstrate the direction of the bullet that killed Patrick Lyoya   -  
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David Guralnick/AP


An independent autopsy confirms that Patrick Lyoya was shot in the back of the head by a Michigan police officer while facedown on the ground, lawyers for the Black man's family said Tuesday.

The finding by a former Detroit-area medical examiner matches what was seen last week on video released by the Grand Rapids police chief. The official autopsy report hasn't been released to the public.

"There never will be question that this was a typical entrance bullet wound," said Dr. Werner Spitz, holding a skull at a news conference to show where the bullet entered the head.

Spitz said he believes the gun was pressed against Lyoya's head when the officer fired.

Lyoya was killed after a traffic stop in western Michigan on April 4. He and the white officer physically struggled on the ground before the 26-year-old refugee from Congo was shot.

Lyoya wasn't armed. The officer was on top of him and can be heard on video demanding that he take his hand off a police Taser.

"We can confirm that Patrick Lyoya was shot in the back of his head," said attorney Ben Crump, who has secured multimillion-dollar settlements for families of other Black men killed by police. "That is now scientific evidence of this tragic killing and what his family believes was an execution."

Spitz said he performed the autopsy last weekend at a Grand Rapids funeral home. The 95-year-old forensic pathologist participated in the assassination investigations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., among other high-profile cases.

Lyoya's death has outraged his family as well as many people who have watched video of the confrontation with an officer.

The officer, whose name hasn't been released, is heard saying during a traffic stop that the license plate didn't match the car. Lyoya declined to get back into the vehicle as ordered, and a short foot chase ensued.

Crump said he and his team will look at whether this was a case of racial profiling — "driving while Black."

Attorney Ven Johnson said Lyoya was resisting the officer, not fighting him.

"From the second that he pulled the weapon until he shot and killed Patrick was milliseconds, as Ben said, never gave a verbal warning, which is required under the federal law," Johnson said.

State police will give their findings to the Kent County prosecutor for consideration of any charges.