Charleena Lyles called police to report an attempted burglary but was shot and killed in front of her children by the officers who came to help her, according to The Seattle Times. Now, family members and investigators are scrambling to figure out what happened as national tensions over police misconduct continue to reach a boiling point following the news of a lack of conviction in the Philando Castille case.
Police say that at some point during the check-in, Lyles had displayed a knife. Lyles family reports that she had been dealing with mental health issues throughout the pregnancy and had been worried that officers were coming to take away her other children, one of whom has Down syndrome.
A Washington Post report adds that the children were not injured during the skirmirsh and that both officers involved have since been placed on administrative leave. Police have since said the officers “were equipped with less lethal force options, per departmental policy.”
Her family believes race was a factor in the shooting — Charleena was African-American and both officers are white.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down,” said Monika Williams, Lyles’ sister.
“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. They are being cared for by other family members at this time.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said the incident will be internally investigated and reviewed by the department’s Force Investigation Team and the Office of Professional Accountability.
One of the officers involved in the shooting has 11 years of police experience, the other is “newer to the department.”
In a 2012 Department of Justice investigation, the Seattle police specifically have been found to routinely engaged in excessive use of force, often against people with mental or substance abuse problems. Evidence of biased policing was also found during this inquiry.
A vigil of around one hundred people gathered at Lyles' home to mourn shortly after her death.
[Photo: Twitter, @stevenjhsieh]