Two Seattle police officers were justified in fatally shooting Charleena Lyles, an inquest jury found Wednesday.
The decision ended a painful legal process examining the decisions by the two Seattle police officers who shot and killed the pregnant, Black mother inside her apartment in the summer of 2017. Lyles was carrying a knife and suffering a mental crisis when the shooting occured.
From the AP:
The six King County coroner’s inquest jurors unanimously determined that officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew, who are white, had no reasonable alternative to using deadly force. The findings drew an angry outburst from Lyles’ father, who shouted profanities and yelled, “You killed my daughter!”
The police killing of Lyles sparked deep debate over SPD’s use of deadly force against people of color and handling of people suffering mental crisis. Her name became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter marches and during the CHOP occupied protest on Capitol Hill as thousands called for justice in the case.
Jason Anderson and Steven McNew, the white SPD officers who shot the pregnant 30-year-old Lyles while responding to a burglary call at her Magnusson apartment in June 2017, were ultimately found to have acted within department policy. In 2021, the city settled a wrongful death lawsuit with her family.
Anger over the killing carried onto the streets of Capitol Hill in August 2020 when a crowd busted into a Pike/Pine boutique owned by McNew’s wife and set fire to merchandise in the middle of 11th Ave.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Wednesday his office will review evidence presented at the inquest in deciding whether to press charges against the officers.
Karen Koehler, attorney for the Lyles family, said they do not blame the jury for its decision.
“SPD’s policies practices and procedures are designed specifically to allow an officer to shoot and kill a person in mental crisis with a (paring) knife,” Koehler said in a statement. “In those circumstances officers are not trained to disarm. They are not trained to wound. They are trained to shoot to kill. The message is clear: if a person is in a mental health crisis and has any type of sharp edged instrument, tool or weapon – do not expect them to survive if 911 is called in Seattle.”
“Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four children with three at home, called the police for help, went into mental crisis and was shot dead,” Koehler said. “The findings of the inquest are nothing for the SPD to be proud about.”