On April 4th, 2022, Patrick Lyoya was stopped by police. His license plate did not match the vehicle he was driving. To us in law enforcement, this puts us on alert. Not everyone understands why so let me break it down as best that I can. There are many reasons why plates may not match, and most of them are not honest mistakes. Instead, they are criminal violations, such as a stolen vehicle. So to find out why we need to make a stop and ask questions. Lyoya’s stop was for this reason.
When the police stop you, most people stay in their vehicle. It makes us very nervous when someone steps out of their car without us asking them to do so. Maybe they are going to run? Perhaps they are going to attack us with a weapon? I have had people exit the vehicle for various reasons, and honestly, none of them were with ill intent. I told them to please stay in the car, and they returned with no problem. Lyoya exited the vehicle and did not listen to the officer’s request to return to his car. Lyoya instead shut the car door and walked in the officer’s direction.
Folks are generally not happy to be stopped, and I empathize with that. Most people ask what’s the reason for the stop, so we tell them. We ask for a driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Some are grumpy, some are nervous, and others are apologetic. But they hand over their license. Lyoya said his driver’s license was in his vehicle. The officer told him to get his license, but what did Lyoya do? He opened the door, spoke to a passenger, shut the door, and started to walk away. The officer told him to stop and place his hands behind his back. What did Lyoya do? He shoved the officer and tried to run away.
So we have a vehicle with illegal plates. The driver refuses to identify himself and is not following instructions given to him by law enforcement. Lyoya is using force to escape the investigative detention by shoving the officer. The driver attempts to flee the scene and escape the lawful stop by running away. None of which are what reasonable people do during a vehicle stop.
The officer then uses force to try and get control over Lyoya. Let me be blunt; force is not pretty. Force is downright ugly. As the officer attempts to gain control over Lyoya, he gives instructions. Lyoya locks his arms and refuses to comply. It may not be hitting but Lyoya is using force. The officer delivers a few knee strikes to Lyoya to get compliance. Most people do not run from a vehicle stop. They instead want to avoid conflict. Generally speaking people want to get the stop over with and either deal with a fine or a warning.. Lyoya was not like most people.
While the officer was attempting to gain control over Lyoya, he gave clear instructions. Lyoya responded, “Okay,” but he did not follow the officer’s instructions. Saying “okay” while still actively resisting the officer is not complying. Now bystanders begin closing in on the officer’s location. The officer is alone. He is struggling with a suspect, and people are approaching him. He has to take control of the suspect. The officer puts his entire body weight on Lyoya to gain control. Lyoya does a pushup like the officer is not even there, ignoring the officer’s instructions. Lyoya stands up. The officer tries to get Lyoya to put his arms behind his back for handcuffing. Lyoya verbalizes that he is following commands, yet his arms are pulling forward, and he is still actively resisting and trying to escape the officer.
Lyoya breaks free of the now exhausted officer. The officer draws his taser and deploys it, and it does not work. Lyoya instead tries to take the taser from the officer. The officer tells Lyoya to let go of the taser. Lyoya refuses. Out of breath and still struggling to control Lyoya, the officer is out of options. If he loses control over the taser, the once unarmed Lyoya becomes armed. The officer draws his weapon and tells Lyoya a final time to drop the taser; Lyoya refuses, and as a result, the officer had no other choice.
Lyoya dictated everything that happened after he was stopped. The officer was reacting and responding to Lyoya’s actions. Unfortunately, Lyoya made poor decisions and chose violence. The officer had every right to defend himself and keep himself safe. Out of thousands of contacts made by law enforcement officers each day, this is not what most people do