Video Showing Police Officer Killing Patrick Lyoya Released

On Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Police Department released videos of the killing of Patrick Lyoya, an unarmed Black man, by a white officer on April 4th.

Lyoya, a 26-year-old Congolese refugee whose family came to the U.S. to escape violence in 2014, was pulled over for a license plate violation. Lyoya got out of his car and waited for the officer, who told him to get back in the car. Lyoya asked what he did wrong, while the officer asked if he had a license and whether he spoke English (Lyoya's native language is Swahili). After responding that he speaks English and his license was in the car, Lyoya initially opened the car door, but closed it again without getting anything and began to slowly walk away. The officer then told Lyoya to stop and grabbed him, causing Lyoya to flee. The officer then decided to engage in a foot chase, despite having his car and a passenger in the car. Foot chases are risky, and their use in these types of situations has been condemned by experts - the officer put himself, Lyoya, and potentially others in danger by chasing and getting into a physical altercation with Lyoya.

The officer tackled Lyoya, but didn't handcuff him. Both stood up, and Lyoya, though uncooperative, didn't appear to be trying to harm the officer. The officer pulled out a stun gun and tried to fire it at Lyoya, who pushed it out of the way. The officer then wrestled with Lyoya on the ground, got on top of him, pulled out his gun, and fired into the back of his head.

Police initially withheld the videos, but released them after public pressure and protests. The officer who killed Lyoya is on paid leave, and their name has not been released. Michigan State Police is now investigating the incident, and experts believe that a manslaughter charge against the officer is likely. An attorney for Lyoya's family stated that they intend to file a federal lawsuit. Protests have continued, occurring daily since the video was released. Black Lives Matter Michigan has called for the officer who killed Patrick Lyoya to be identified, fired, and prosecuted for his actions.

While police apologists argue that Lyoya shouldn't have ignored or resisted the officer, they fail to acknowledge that there is no death penalty for failure to comply with police, and that police shouldn’t be killing anyone. They also fail to note that the officer escalated a situation in which there was no apparent danger to himself or anyone else. Lyoya, a Black man, was almost certainly aware that racism by police and in the legal system put him at higher risk of police brutality, higher risk of being killed by police, higher risk of being arrested, higher risk of being convicted, and higher risk of receiving a longer potential jail sentence, based solely on the color of his skin, making it reasonable for him to fear and be uncooperative with police. Additionally, police apologists fail to explain why these killings almost never seem to happen to white people who are uncooperative or resist officers, but unarmed Black people keep ending up dead at the hands of police.

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DeWitt Police Officer Who Pulled Gun on Black Teen Finally Faces Charges

A white police officer from DeWitt (just north of Lansing) has now been charged by the Michigan Attorney General with multiple felonies for pulling a gun on Alexander Hamilton, an unarmed Black teenager delivering newspapers last year. The officer is also now facing a civil suit from Hamilton.

Officer Chad Vorce, who was off-duty at the time, called 911 on a "suspicious" Black man delivering newspapers near his home. Vorce claimed he fit the description of a person suspected of recent break-ins in the area, a common claim by White people who use violence against Black people. Vorce stated that "I thought it was him because he fits the same description, black hoodie...fricken black guy." After Vorce questioned the teen and didn't feel satisfied with the response, Vorce began following him in his truck. After the teen backed up to try to talk to Vorce, the off-duty officer told 911 dispatchers that the teen was trying to ram him and said "I'm going to go shots fired if he does it again!" The teen drove to a gas station to be in a public place that might provide safety from the threatening Vorce, where Vorce then blocked him in and approached with his gun drawn and identified himself as a police officer. The officer reportedly continued to yell at the teen even after on-duty police officers arrived.

After an internal investigation, the police department fired Vorce in May, citing excessive force and other violations, stating that he "brought disrespect to himself and the DeWitt City Police Department." In December, however, a White arbitrator decided that Vorce's actions hadn't "undermined or significantly impaired the otherwise good reputation of the department" and reinstated Vorce to the police department. The Clinton County prosecutor declined to bring charges against Vorce last year.

The Attorney General was asked to review the case in January, and announced charges against Vorce for felonious assault, a felony firearm charge, and felony misconduct in office on April 7th. Additionally, Alexander Hamilton filed a civil suit on April 8th against Vorce and the city of DeWitt for excessive force and discrimination.

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Full Vaccination with Booster Most Protective Against Hospitalization for People Reinfected with COVID-19

A recent analysis from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows that full vaccination, including booster, remains the most effective means of preventing hospitalization following reinfection with COVID-19. The report, which looked at the electronic health records of more than 135 million people living in the United States, focused on people confirmed to have had an infection with COVID-19 previously and their chances of being reinfected and needing hospitalization. Per the report, which also cites other studies, 50% of reinfections have happened while Omicron has been the predominant variant, defined as December 19, 2021 to February 24, 2022 for the purposes of the study. The results of this most recent study show that for those people who did become reinfected during this Omicron period, full vaccination with a booster offered 60-70% protection from hospitalization compared to 25-43% protection after only two doses (i.e., vaccination without a booster). It was found that receiving a booster dose still increased protection even if the previous infection was after getting the second vaccine dose. Ultimately, the results of the study offer further evidence that full vaccination with a booster offers the greatest protection against severe disease requiring hospitalization for all people who are infected, even those who have been previously infected.  

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COVID-19 Remains Public Health Emergency Per WHO and Biden Administration

In a recent press conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Aghanom Ghebreyesus warned that much more needed to be done before COVID-19 would no longer be designated as a public health emergency. While deaths have been at their lowest since March 2020, the WHO still reported 22,336 deaths last week per their April 12, 2022 epidemiological report on COVID-19. In addition, the WHO re-emphasized that several countries are still seeing large spikes in cases that have continued to strain health systems globally, and that these numbers are likely undercounted as testing has significantly been reduced. 

The shift to at-home testing as well as decreases in testing overall may not be giving the United States the best picture of how COVID-19 is currently spreading in the country at the moment, however it is clear that the pandemic is still going on. The Biden administration extended defining COVID-19 as a public health emergency for another 90 days, per a recent press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services. This would allow for continued funding for tests, vaccines, and some treatments to continue to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid as well as some other insurers.

Much of the recent spikes in cases here in the United States and globally have been due to the Omicron variant and its subvariants, such as BA.2. In Philadelphia, starting April 18th, a mask mandate will be reinstated in indoor public spaces due to the increase in cases, with a more than 50% increase in cases over the last 10 days. In addition, largely due to the new Omicron variant and subvariants, the CDC extended the travel mask requirement to May 3rd on planes and public transit. 

Again, the pandemic is not over, even as certain restrictions continue to be lifted. Even if there is no mask mandate in your area, continue to wear good masks (i.e., N95, KN95, or KF94) in public spaces, socially distance, and stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations/boosters to best protect yourself and others. 

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BA.2 Currently Responsible for Just Under 86% of Cases in the United States

As of this week, Omicron variant BA.2 accounts for 85.9% of cases of COVID-19 across the United States. Per the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, BA.2 accounts for 87.3% of cases in Region 5 of the United States, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Documented cases of BA.2 have so far been the highest in the Northeast, with recent reports reflecting that two subvariants, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, are spreading 25% more quickly than BA.2. Per The New York Times, the subvariants are currently responsible for more than 90% of cases in central New York State. These subvariants are not new, but their spread in New York is bringing them more attention. Per CNN, they have been found in all 50 states since January, but not to the degree that they are being detected in New York. More research needs to be done to better understand the spread of these variants, but so far, health experts agree that the same precautions — masking, distancing and full vaccination including boosters — help to protect from infection, hospitalization, and death. 

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MSU Extends COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements, But Removes Mask Mandate

On Friday, Michigan State University's President announced that the university would lift mask requirements effective May 16th, but would continue to require COVID-19 vaccines and boosters for the 2022-2023 academic year.

As of May 16th, masks will no longer be required in classes and in labs, though they may still be required in health care facilities or under certain other situations. The university removed mask mandates in most other indoor settings on March 6th.

For the 2022-2023 academic year, "All students, faculty, and staff must either receive a vaccine and one booster or have applied for and received an exemption." MSU's Early Detection Program and PCR testing will end on May 13th, and testing requirements for those with medical or religious exemptions to the vaccine policy will no longer be required to get routine tests.

The university has consistently exercised poor judgment with respect to COVID-19 policies, and the latest change comes as some major cities in the U.S. are reinstating mask requirements due to the spread of new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.

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Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Reach Settlement with D.C. BLM Protesters

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that multiple federal law enforcement agencies had agreed to change their policies as part of a settlement with Black Lives Matter protesters. The settlement ends four civil cases from incidents on June 1, 2020, when law enforcement violently cleared Black Lives Matter protesters from a park in Washington, D.C. near the White House.

United States Park Police policy changes include:

In the next 30 days, the U.S. Secret Service will "amend its policies to provide that the fact that some demonstrators have engaged in unlawful conduct does not ordinarily provide blanket grounds for use of force, crowd dispersal or declaration of unlawful assembly."

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):