Seattle police shot and killed Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old African-American woman and pregnant mother-of-four, who had called them to report an attempted burglary at her apartment in Magnuson Park just past 10 a.m. on Sunday. Three of her children were in the apartment with her and witnessed their mother being shot and killed.
Detectives say that Lyles was brandishing a knife during the incident, which is why she was shot. However, critics on Facebook and Twitter are skeptical, saying that it is entirely understandable that a mother, whose home was just broken into, would feel protective of her children.
Others that are critical of the police officers’ actions include some of Lyles’ family members who describe her as “tiny” and far from intimidating. They believe that her race was a factor.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her?” questioned Lyles’ sister, Monika Williams. “They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down.”
Williams also informed reporters that Lyles was pregnant, and that she had been dealing with some mental health issues over the past year. But she questioned the need for the police officers to shoot Lyles.
“There’s no reason for her to be shot in front of her babies,” Williams yelled to reporters outside of the Brettler Family Place apartments where the shooting occurred. “The Seattle Police shot the wrong one today.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called the situation a “tragedy for all involved” in a statement Sunday afternoon. Detective Mark Jamieson said that officers were alerted to “hazard information” following previous encounters with Lyles, which necessitated a two-officer response to her call for help.
Williams said that her sister had been arrested earlier in the month by officers who had responded to a call after she had armed herself with a pair of scissors as protection against her boyfriend. King County records show that Lyle had been arrested on June 5, but the exact details of the previous incident were not available.
“Officers were confronted by a 30-year-old woman armed with a knife,” the Seattle Police Department stated. “Both officers fired their duty weapons, striking the woman. 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.”
Domico Jones, a brother to Lyles, said that his sister had been dealing with some mental health issues which her family had tried to help with, and that the constant care required by her 4-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome had begun to take a toll on Lyles. He said that she was worried that her children would be taken, and that the Brettler Family Place management was trying to get her family out of the apartment complex. However, he held the same opinion of the rest of his family that she was a small and unfrightening woman.
“She was not a person you would fear or feel intimidated by,” he said.
Seattle Police Department North Precinct Captain Sean O’Donnell described one of the two officers involved in the shooting as an 11-year veteran, but said the other was “newer to the department.” Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Mayor Murray said that the shooting will undergo an internal review by the department’s Force Investigation Team and the Office of Professional Accountability. Additionally, the King County Prosecutors’ Office will investigate the shooting and will most likely call for a coroner’s examination.
“My thoughts are with the many people impacted, including three children and the responding officers,” Mayor Murray said. A vigil will be held for Charleena Lyles at 7 p.m. Sunday night at 6940 62nd Avenue NE at the soccer field near Magnuson Park.
[Featured Image by Ted S. Warren/AP Images]