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Patrick Lyoya autopsy results press conference April 19, 2020 in Detroit

From left: Attorneys Ven Johnson and Ben Crump with Dr. Werner Spitz in Detroit on April 19, 2022. | Source: Near Perfect Media screenshot

An independent autopsy performed by a world-renowned forensic pathologist not only confirmed that Patrick Lyoya died from being shot in the back of his head by a police officer but also that the officer “pressed” his gun into the unarmed Black man’s head before firing the “contact shot” in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dr. Werner Spitz said Tuesday during a press conference in Detroit that Lyoya, 26, was also “conscious and aware that a gun was being held to the back of his head” at the moment before he died on that fateful morning of April 4.

Those findings based on scientific evidence only bolster claims that lethal force was used in a situation in which it was not merited because the officer clearly had control over Lyoya, civil rights attorneys said during the press conference.

The developments in the latest high profile police killing of an unarmed Black person came as Ben Crump, who represents Lyoya’s family, suggested Lyoya — whose shooting stemmed from a traffic stop — was also the victim of “DWB,” or driving while Black.

Attorney Ven Johnson also suggested during the press conference that the sudden deactivation of the officer’s body camera may have been deliberate.

The autopsy findings came days before Lyoya’s funeral and nearly one week after graphic video footage from the traffic stop and shooting was made public by the City of Grand Rapids.

Autopsy results

Spitz, who has worked on landmark shooting cases like the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., conducted the autopsy on Saturday at a funeral home in Grand Rapids and shared his preliminary findings on Tuesday. 

Using a human skull and a chart to demonstrate where and how Lyoya was shot, Spitz said the single bullet used went into Lyoya’s skull but never exited his head. Instead, the bullet was lodged near the upper right temple and stopped because Lyoya had his face pushed into the ground at the time of the shooting.

the bullet went thru the bone and lodged under the skin for the simple reason that the skin is elastic, lost its velocity of the bullet because the bullet stretched the skin in the upper right temple area and at that moment the bullet stopped and it was located.

There’s no question what killed this young man,” Spitz said.

Crump said it was important to get these official findings on the record because previously the police chief in Grand Rapids would not say where Lyoya was shot.

Spitz said it was the only injury to Lyoya’s body.

Lyoya knew he had a gun to his head before he was shot, Spitz added.

“He was fully aware at one point … that there is a gun being held to his head,” Spitz said, in part because “the gun is cold” and metal.

“The gun is pushed against the skin which gives a certain feeling to the person that is being detained, that there’s a gun involved and,” Spitz said before adding, “Who knows what’s going to follow?”

Spitz said he was sure the gun was pressed into Lyoya’s head before the fatal shot was fired.

“I think it was,” Spitz said, “because the bone in the back of the head was not broken, it was fragmented.”

Bone fragmentation happens “when the gun is held in contact with the skin and pushed against the skin,” Spitz said.

This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.


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Patrick Lyoya Autopsy Results Reveal 'Contact Shot'  was originally published on