When Charleena Lyles, a black woman living in Seattle, called police to report an attempted burglary at her home on Sunday morning, she most likely didn’t know it would be the last phone call she would make. The soon-to-be mother-of-four was shot and killed by officers responding to her call, after officers said she displayed a knife upon their arrival to her home, according to The Seattle Times.
Lyles' two sons and daughter were inside the home when police fired off rounds at their mother. They were not harmed during the incident. Lyles was reportedly three months pregnant with her fourth child when she was killed.
Police Detective Mark Jamieson told local media that the two officers who responded to Lyles’ call had been alerted of “hazard information” in the police database regarding a former exchange Lyles had with authorities in early June. Lyles had been previously arrested for obstruction of a public official and two counts of harassment on June 5 but had been released conditionally on June 14. During that particular altercation, Lyles was armed with a pair of scissors, according to police reports.
Lyles’ family members, who said she had a longstanding history of “mental-health problems,” told reporters they believed race was a factor in the shooting after discovering that the two officers involved were both white.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down,” Lyles’ sister, Monika Williams, told The Seattle Times, adding that Lyles was a considerably “tiny” woman.
Despite Lyles’ mental-health battles, her brother, Domico Jones, said his sister was “not a person you would fear or feel intimidated by.”
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) history is flooded with instances of officers engaging in excessive use of force, particularly during exchanges with people suffering from mental or substance abuse, which prompted a 2012 Department of Justice investigation into the department. Following the DOJ’s discovery of biased policing and a number of cases involving excessive force by police officers, the SPD was placed under a federal consent decree—a provision that allows the federal government to sue police agencies that show patterns of excessive force or civil rights violations. A federal court-appointed monitor recently said the SPD had been making significant improvements to its policing practices.
The officers involved in the shooting, an 11-year veteran and a newer officer, were placed on paid leave, police Captain Sean O’Donnell told local media.
Lyles death comes just days after the officer involved in the shooting death of Philando Castile, a black man in Minnesota who was killed during a traffic stop nearly a year ago, was acquitted of murder charges.
In 2016, 233 black people were shot and killed by police officers, according to The Washington Post’s Fatal Force tracker. Of the 447 people who have been shot and killed by police so far in 2017, 102 of them have been black. Three of the black people killed by police so far this year have been women.
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