Two white Seattle police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old Black mother of four, at her apartment Sunday morning. The shooting happened with three of her children in the apartment after she called police to report a possible burglary.
According to police, Charleena 'confronted' the officers with a knife at some point during their interaction. Relatives say she had a history of mental health issues.
At the time of her death, Charleena was three months pregnant with her fifth child.
via Washington Post:
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her?” Lyles’s sister, Monika Williams, told the Seattle Times. “They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down.”
On Sunday morning just before 10 a.m., two patrol officers were dispatched to investigate a reported burglary at Brettler Family Place, an apartment complex for people transitioning out of homelessness, according to Detective Mark Jamieson.
Usually, only one officer would respond to a standard burglary call like this one, Jamieson told reporters. But police were familiar with Lyles and her apartment, he said, and her call flagged “hazard information” affiliated with her apartment that “presented an increased risk to officers,” the detective said.
Officers walked to the fourth floor and “at some point, the 30-year-old female was armed with a knife,” Jamieson told reporters. Both officers, who have not been identified, fired their weapons. They performed CPR, according to authorities, but Lyles was later declared dead by fire department officials at the scene.
The children inside at the time were unharmed. Police were trying to determine Sunday if the children had witnessed the shooting.
The department’s Force Investigative Team is investigating the officers’ decision to use deadly force. Both officers will be placed on administrative leave during the investigation, authorities said.
Authorities offered few immediate details about what led police to fire their weapons. Early Monday morning, the police department released an audio recording capturing what they described as “some of the interaction with the caller prior to the rapid development of the use of force incident.”
On the recording, which officials said was captured by dashboard video cameras in the patrol cars, officers can be heard discussing a woman who had previously made “all these weird statements.” Neither officer is identified, and police say all names have been removed from the recording.
The recording captured officers speaking to a woman about an Xbox she said was taken. Seconds after that interaction, however, the encounter suddenly escalates and the officers can be heard shouting at the woman to back away.
“Hey, get back! Get back!” an officer shouts, a call echoed by the other officer, before a volley of gunshots are heard.
In a short statement accompanying the recording, police said that both police officers involved “were equipped with less lethal force options, per departmental policy.”
Family members told the Seattle Times that they believe Lyles’s race — she is black — was a factor in her death. Seattle police told the newspaper that the officers who shot her are white.
Sean O’Donnell, captain of the department’s north precinct, where the shooting took place, said one of the officers is an 11-year veteran of the force and the other is “newer to the department,” reported the Times.
King County jail records show that Lyles was arrested on June 5 on charges of harassment, obstruction of a public official and harassment of a law enforcement officer. She was released conditionally on June 14. Williams told the Seattle Times that one condition was that she receive mental health counseling, though the newspaper could not independently verify that information Sunday.
Williams told TV station KOMO News that her sister’s arrest earlier this month was connected to another incident at the apartment. Lyles was charged with obstruction because she refused to hand over one of the children to officers until Williams arrived at the scene. She had scissors in her hand, Williams said.
“She didn’t charge nobody or nothing,” Williams told KOMO News.
She said Lyles had “mental health issues” that were going untreated.