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. Continue reading

With only one org stepping forward, Seattle selects administrator for $30M participatory budgeting process born out of 2020 protests

Seattle found only one candidate to run the city’s new $30 million participatory budgeting process. They got the job.

The Office of Civil Rights announced that a bid from the national Participatory Budgeting Project advocacy group has been selected to serve as the third-party administrator on the newly formed effort to shape a $30 million package hoped to address inequity by creating a system of more direct control of community spending in Seattle.

“Although we had hoped for more applicants, we were pleased to see a proposal from PBP, who were engaged in the application process and showed a deep understanding and experience with a community led PB process,” the announcement reads.

CHS reported here last summer on the Seattle City Council’s decision to pursue growing the city’s Participatory Budgeting resources under the Office of Civil Rights, breaking a logjam over what department might lead the effort forward.

The initiative was born along with the Black Brilliance Research Project out of 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle. The $30 million falls under a $100 million package earmarked to address equity in the city by then-Mayor Jenny Durkan during 2020’s unrest in the city. Continue reading

‘Capitol Hill Community Center’ — Times reports on Seattle’s short-lived plan to transfer the East Precinct before CHOP formed

June 13th, 2020 (Image: CHS)

In late June of 2020, the few local media including CHS on the ground at the CHOP occupied protest around Cal Anderson and the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct at 12th and Pine reported on a Friday night meeting in the middle of the demonstrations held at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church and attended by activists, city officials, and then Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Included in the talks as officials discussed addressing demands over equity and police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd murder were ideas around the future of the East Precinct building itself. Five days later, Seattle Police would raid and clear chop under order from Durkan.

New reporting by the Seattle Times shows that the city was already considering options for the East Precinct weeks earlier before the CHOP camps formed that included handing over the building to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, an advocacy group that formed during the unrest of 2020 and presented the city with a roster of demands hoped to help quiet the streets after a week of heavy protest in Seattle in early June 2020. Though BLMSKC was not directly involved in organizing the largest protests that week, many activists were also calling for creating a “Capitol Hill Community Center” in the building with mutual aid, health, and care resources. Continue reading

‘Say Her Name’ — City of Seattle settles Charleena Lyles wrongful death lawsuit

Her name has echoed through the streets of the city since the Black mother of four was shot to death by two Seattle Police officers in the summer of 2017.

Lawyers representing the family of Charleena Lyles have announced a $3.5 million settlement in their wrongful-death lawsuit against the City of Seattle.

“Those children need to know that their mother should not have died,” an attorney representing the family said during a press conference Tuesday. “She did nothing that should have led to her death. She should have received compassion. She should have received resources. She should have received assistance.”

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. Continue reading

‘The Guardian of Seattle,’ Dan Gregory has hopes for Carnegie Medal — Fernandez trial set for 2022

Dan Gregory

Dan Gregory, the unarmed man shot as he tried to disarm the brother of an East Precinct officer who drove into a Black Lives Matter demonstration crowd at 11th and Pine in the summer of 2020 protests on Capitol Hill, said Wednesday he is being nominated for the Carnegie Medal, an award presented for acts of extraordinary heroism.

Gregory made the announcement Wednesday morning on the air with John Richards on KEXP where Gregory now works as a security guard.

The court case of the shooter in the incident, meanwhile, is now scheduled to begin trial early in the new year. Continue reading

‘Best decisions they could’ — Office of Police Accountability clears chief and SPD brass in decision to leave the East Precinct

Best at a CHOP press conference in 2020 (Image: CHS)

The process of investigating the events of 2020, its months of unrest, and the formation of the CHOP protest zone on Capitol Hill moved forward Monday with another report finding no violations — and no blame — for Seattle Police decisions that contributed to the crisis.

Monday, the department’s Office of Police Accountability released its report exonerating former Chief Carmen Best and an assistant chief in the summer 2020 decision to clear out the East Precinct headquarters at 12th and Pine.

“Following the evacuation, OPA received complaints alleging the Chief failed to take responsibility for her command by ordering—or allowing through her designee—the evacuation of SPD personnel from the East Precinct,” a press release from the OPA on the findings reads. “That the Chief delegated to her Assistant Chief, who opted to de-escalate by withdrawing personnel to a safer location, was not a violation of law or SPD policy.”

In the statement, OPA director Andrew Myerberg said complaints “further alleged the evacuation led to the establishment of CHOP/CHAZ and a subsequent period of lawlessness in the area” but that his investigation “found no consensus within SPD command or the Mayor’s Office that opening the streets around the East Precinct—and the ensuing evacuation of personnel—would result in the establishment of CHOP/CHAZ.”

Myerberg, instead, said Chief Best and her assistant chief “made the best decisions they could under high-stress, unprecedented circumstances.” Continue reading

‘Enough is Enough’ — Seattle adds second Black Lives Matter street mural

(Image: City of Seattle)

Seattle has a new Black Lives Matter mural.

The new art stretches along the sidewalk of 4th Ave below Seattle City Hall, and, like its Capitol Hill counterpart, will be “a long-term installation that will remain in place for years” and will be “regularly maintained by the Seattle Department of Transportation.”

CHS reported here on the city’s pledge for long-term maintenance of the large Black Lives Matter mural that stretches across E Pine south of Cal Anderson and was painted by community artists and activists during the CHOP protests. Continue reading

2021 Umoja Day of Unity Parade & March steps off from Jimi Hendrix Park this weekend

2020’s parade and march

Concerns about the continued impact of COVID-19 mean another year without the full three-day festival but organizers behind Seattle’s annual Umoja events in the Central District will again gather for a day of celebration and a march “for Black Lives, Love, Unity, Healing & Justice” this weekend. Continue reading

Seattle police commander files $5.5M claim over blame for Capitol Hill protest ‘pink umbrella incident’

A scene from June 1, 2020 (Image: Matt Mitgang)

Steve Hirjak, the assistant chief demoted by Chief Adrian Diaz for his role in the “pink umbrella incident” of heavy handed police response to Black Lives Matter protesters on Capitol Hill last summer, has filed a $5.5 million discrimination and retaliation claim against the city.

Publicola reports:

Captain Steve Hirjak, whom Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz demoted from Assistant Chief after deeming him responsible for SPD’s widely criticized use of tear gas and blast balls against protesters on Capitol Hill on June 1, 2020, argued through his attorney that Diaz unfairly shifted blame for the incident away from Lieutenant John Brooks, who was the on-site commander during the protest.

Hirjak’s attorney “criticized Diaz’s decision to demote Hirjak instead of Brooks, pointing to findings by the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) that held Brooks responsible for violating SPD policy on June 1,” Publicola reports.

The Seattle Times reports that Hirjak is “prepared to pursue a lawsuit, but remains open to mediating an out-of-court settlement. It gives the city and Diaz until Aug. 11 to agree to mediation.” Continue reading

New report tries to answer what went wrong during Seattle Police’s response to 2020 Black Lives Matter protests — and what to do about it

Future Seattle protests could meet a larger, more technologically prepared police force with new directives including encouraging certain officers to speak their minds — if what the cops have to say doesn’t further inflame tensions.

The first report has been released from the city’s official review of public safety implications from last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the Seattle Police Department’s flawed response to the unrest.

The recommendations from the panel of SPD officials and community representatives convened for the effort recommends a major seachange for SPD’s strategy for policing protests to “focus more explicitly and comprehensively on the facilitation of peaceful assembly and ensuring the safety of protestors.”

“The focus and mindset of SPD officers deployed to assist in crowd events should move away from ‘crowd management,’ ‘crowd control,’ and ‘law enforcement’ to ‘facilitation of speech’ and ‘crowd protection and safety,'” the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety’s “Sentinel Event Review of Police Response to 2020 Protests in Seattle” report reads. Continue reading