SEATTLE – In what is sure to be a highly publicized officer involved shooting, white Seattle police officers used deadly force against a black female that confronted them with a knife. The pregnant woman has a history of mental illness, according to the family.
Police Detective Mark Jamieson said officers were alerted to “hazard information” in the system after a previous encounter with the woman, which prompted a two-officer response Sunday morning when she called to report an attempted burglary in her fourth-floor unit at Brettler Family Place apartments, according to The Seattle Times.
“Officers were confronted by a 30-year-old woman armed with a knife,” the department wrote on its web blotter. “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,” the department said. “They are being cared for by other family members at this time.”
Just after 10 a.m. Sunday, Seattle police responded after the woman had called to report an attempted burglary at her Magnuson Park apartment. At some point, police said, she displayed a knife and two officers shot and killed her.
Relatives identified the woman as Charleena Lyles.
Family members said she was several months pregnant and had been struggling with mental-health issues for the past year. They said she was concerned authorities would take her children, one of whom they said has Down syndrome.
Family members arriving about two hours later were distraught and questioned why police shot her. She was “tiny,” they said, and believe her race was a factor.
The Seattle Police Department confirmed the officers involved in the shooting were white. As a result, the fatal encounter will likely bring added pressure and scrutiny.
Early Monday, SPD released an audio recording that captured “some of the interaction with the caller prior to the rapid development of the use of force incident.”
Officials said the recording was captured by the dash cam. On the recording officers can be heard discussing a woman who had previously made “all these weird statements.”
The recording captured officers speaking to a woman about an Xbox that 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.
The officers have not been named. However, Captain Sean O’Donnell, 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 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. Lyles’s sister, Monika Williams, told the Seattle Times that one condition was that she receive mental health counseling, although the newspaper could not independently verify that information Sunday.
Williams acknowledged that Lyles had “mental health issues” that were going untreated. Yet she asked, “Why couldn’t they have Tased her?”
Naturally, those details will be revealed as the investigation unfolds.
The shooting also occurred in front of “several children,” so that will be another element bringing a cloud of controversy over the incident.
Another photo of Charleena Lyles, 30 yo mother shot by SPD today. Photo shared with permission from family pic.twitter.com/xS7zIkSWZ6
— Steven Hsieh (@stevenjhsieh) June 18, 2017
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called the incident “a tragedy for all involved.”
“My thoughts are with the many people impacted, including three children and the responding officers,” he said.
Murray and police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said the department’s Force Investigation Team and the Office of Professional Accountability will review the shooting. The King County Prosecutor’s Office also will review the incident and likely call for a coroner’s inquest.
(Photo courtesy Matthew Zalewski)