Yesterday (June 18), two Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers shot and killed 30-year-old Charleena Lyles in front of her three children, in her home. She was pregnant.
— TACtion (@tacoma_action) June 18, 2017
The department posted a statement on its website with its official recounting of the shooting. From that statement:
Shortly before 10:00 a.m. Sunday, two North Precinct patrol officers responded to a report of a waiting burglary call in an apartment building in the 6800 block of 62nd Avenue NE. Although this was a typical burglary report, two officers were required due to information pertaining to this address that presented an increased risk to officers. Officers arrived and went to the fourth floor to meet with the complainant. Officers were confronted by a 30-year-old woman armed with a knife. Both officers fired their duty weapons, striking the woman. The officers immediately performed first aid while the Seattle Fire Department responded, but the fire department declared the woman deceased once they arrived.
There were several children inside the apartment at the time of the shooting, but they were not injured. They are being cared for by other family members at this time.
Local station KIRO reports that Lyles called the police to report a burglary. Her sister, Monika Williams, told press that Lyles struggled with mental illness, but was not a threat.
“What is she going do to all you police?” Williams said at the scene. “You big ass men? I can take her down, I know you can.”
The department released four minutes of audio pulled from the dashcam system at 1:45 a.m. today (June 19), and it reveals that at least one of the officers had previously responded to a call at Lyles’ home. One of the officers can be heard saying that the department has an “officer safety caution” for Lyles. When another asked if there was a “mental on her,” the other cop said no, but “she was the one making all these weird statements about how her and her daughter were gonna turn into wolves” during a previous interaction. Lyles can be heard calmly telling the officers about the robbery. Then the recording cuts to the officers saying “get back,” followed by gunshots. Listen to the audio here.
The two, as yet unidentified officers, have been placed on paid administrative leave. The shooting is being investigated by the department’s Force Investigation Team and the Office of Professional Accountability. The Kings County Prosecutor’s Office will also review the shooting. SPD’s statement makes it clear that the officers had “less lethal force options” available, and that they previously received Crisis Intervention Training, as mandated by the department.
The officers are both White. Lyles was Black. Her family told The Seattle Times that it believes race was a motivator in her death. SPD is currently operating under a consent decree, following the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) 2011 conclusion that officers are racially biased and routinely use excessive force against people with mental health and substance abuse issues.
In April, the DOJ noted that the department is in “initial compliance with the use of force provisions of the consent decree” and that the city is “crystallizing into a model of policing for the 21st century.” Meanwhile, the current attorney general—Jeff Sessions, who leads the DOJ—has called for a review of all consent decrees with cities whose officers have violated the civil rights of the people they are supposed to serve, with an eye toward decreasing federal regulation.