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Inquest: Seattle Police shooting of Charleena Lyles justified

A poster hung during the CHOP protests on Capitol Hill

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.”

 

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Moving Soon
Moving Soon
1 month ago

Disgusting. Defund the police.

Boba Met
Boba Met
1 month ago
Reply to  Moving Soon

For once I agree with you, Moving Soon. Not necessarily the defund part, but this death is an absolute disgrace and shame on a group of police officers who could not de-escalate a lone woman in a mental health crisis with no gun…if I remember correctly she had a pair of scissors…?

HTS3
HTS3
1 month ago
Reply to  Boba Met

You remember incorrectly. Yes, weeks previous to the situation that resulted in her death, she did threaten police officers with a pair of scissors. The tragic situation that resulted in her death, was different in that after calling for officers to investigate a burglary in her home, she suddenly turned on them with a knife. It was a very confined space. Unfortunately this resulted in the officers using their weapons resulting in her death. Of course this event was a tragedy. If Ms. Lyles could have instead gotten help with her mental illness this might not have happened. Not sure how defunding the police will solve any problems. Of course the threat of this has resulted in a loss of many officers and now we find our city does not have the resources to investigate a range of crimes. My friend’s son was assaulted and received a serious concussion. Presented with the footage of the assailant and a license plate, the local precinct informed the father that he should call 911 if he ever sees this guy again. And said that they can’t arrest him, but that they’ll at least let him know he’s being watched. Great. Defunding the police is such a silly idea. Improve training, protocols and certainly fund more mental health—but having fewer officers has proven not to be a good idea for the safety of all of our communities.

Boba Met
Boba Met
1 month ago
Reply to  HTS3

Thank you for clarifying, that’s helpful community dialogue and I appreciate it. I don’t think “defund” has been at all good for our community but my heart breaks for these type of situations that fly out of hand and end in death. This woman was well known to the police for being unpredictable and violent and unstable. If we had any real social resources to speak of, this situation would not has escalated as it did.

zach
zach
1 month ago

Many people, especially on Capitol Hill, assume in a knee-jerk fashion that inquests into police conduct are biased and racist. Maybe, just maybe, the inquest process in this case was fair and equitable.