Seattle, WA — On a Sunday afternoon in June of 2017, a pregnant mother's 911 call to police ended tragically after cops showed up to her home and killed her. Since that fateful day, the family of Charleena Lyles has been fighting for justice, and this month, they found out there will be none.
According to reports, a two-week long inquest that began on June 21, ended last week when both officers who gunned down Lyles were ruled justified in their actions — 5 years after killing her.
“You killed my daughter!” Lyles’ father yelled out after the findings were revealed. Inquest jurors determined that officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew had no other choice but to killed Lyles after she called 911 to report a burglary.
A week before she was killed, Lyles, 30, called police because she feared her ex-boyfriend may try to harm her. Lyles, who reportedly suffered from mental health issues, was arrested during that call for allegedly arming herself with a pair of scissors. After the arrest, she was released under the condition that she get some help with her mental health issues.
Days later, Lyles called the police again — this time, to report an attempted burglary. The officers who responded to the mother's 911 call this time, however, were apparently less accommodating when it came to dealing with a mentally ill woman. When officers saw Lyles, armed with a small pocket knife, two of them opened fire and killed her.
Why Lyles had a knife is unclear. However, if she was suffering from delusions, she could have simply feared the police after they showed up. According to a report from the Seattle Times:
“As the officers drew their weapons, Lyles yelled ‘Do it!’ and cursed at them. The officers repeatedly yelled for her to get back before firing, hitting her seven times. The jury found that even if the officers had a Taser, it would not have been an effective or appropriate option as she advanced on them in the close confines of the apartment, The Seattle Times reported.
Her crying baby crawled over and climbed on top of her as she died, and a boy came out of a bedroom and said, in tears, ‘You shot my mom,’ the officers recalled in emotional testimony.
Lyles was 15 weeks pregnant.”
Police released the audio file from the officer's dashcam after they killed Lyles and from listening to the audio, it appears officers only took a few seconds after seeing Lyles with a knife, before killing her.
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The audio file depicts the conversation between the officers just prior to contacting the caller as they discuss the history of the residence and their concerns. The audio also captured some of the interaction with the caller prior to the rapid development of the use of force incident. Please note that all names as well as the caller’s address and telephone number have been redacted.
Lyles family settled a civil lawsuit in 2021 against the Seattle police department and received $3.5 million. Now, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg is reviewing evidence presented at the inquest, along with the findings, to determine if charges will be made against officers Anderson and McNew.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down,” said Monika Williams, Lyles’ sister.
According to police, Anderson did not have his Taser with him — the battery was dead — and he was later suspended for two days without pay for violating department policy.
According to Lyles family, she was a small and harmless woman who did not need to be shot.
“She was not a person you would fear or feel intimidated by,” Domico Jones, Lyles brother said.
“There’s no reason for her to be shot in front of her babies,” Williams yelled at reporters. “The Seattle police shot the wrong one today.”
According to Lyles family, the 30-year-old mother of three had been suffering from her mental illness for approximately a year. Her family told reporters they had tried to get her help. Unfortunately, that help would never come.