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Seattle police fatally shoot black mother of 4 who they say ‘confronted’ officers with a knife

  • Author: Scott Greenstone, The Seattle Times
  • Updated: June 19, 2017
  • Published June 19, 2017

SEATTLE — Seattle police shouted "Get back! Get back!" before they opened fire on 30-year-old Charleena Lyles as at least one child could be heard crying in the background, according to dashboard camera audio released early Monday by the Seattle Police Department.

The audio of the Sunday morning encounter in fourth-floor Magnuson Park, which was redacted in several places, includes two unidentified officers speaking about Lyles' mental health and previous calls to police before they confronted her.

The officers were responding to Lyles' call reporting an attempted burglary at her Magnuson Park apartment. At some point, police said, she displayed a knife and two officers shot and killed her.

"Hello, good morning," one of the officers says in the audio. "You call the police?"

The officers continue to speak with Lyles, who was identified by family members Sunday, and ask her about a reportedly stolen Xbox.

Shortly after, the situation escalates and an officer says, "We need help."

"Hey! Get back! Get back!" an officer shouts before an eruption of gunfire.

Police said several children were in the apartment at the time of the shooting and were not hurt. The children were identified by family as two boys and a girl, ages 11, 4 and 1.

In a statement released with the audio, police noted that both officers were equipped with "less lethal force options."

Police also said that typically one officer is dispatched when property crime is reported, but in this case two officers were sent because there had been a previous incident involving Lyles.

Family members also said she was several months pregnant and had been struggling with mental health issues for the past year. They said she was concerned that authorities would take her children, one of whom they said has Down syndrome.

Police took the three children from the home.

Lyles' family said on Sunday that the shooting could have been avoided and that they believed race — she's African-American — was a factor.

"Why couldn't they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down," said Monika Williams, Lyles' sister.

Before the shooting, the officers can be heard discussing previous calls, including for domestic violence, to Lyles' apartment. The audio is linked to the dashcam of the patrol cars of both responding officers, police said.

"She let them in, then she started talking all crazy about how the officers weren't gonna leave," one of the officers says, referencing a previous call.

An officer mentions scissors.

Police Detective Mark Jamieson said on Sunday that Lyles had been arrested earlier this month by officers responding to another call after she had armed herself as protection against her boyfriend. Jamieson said Lyles had a pair of scissors during the previous encounter.

"Wait, is this the one with like the three kids?" one officer says on the audio before the shooting.

The other officer responds: "Yeah, so this gal, she was the one making all these weird statements about how her and her daughter are going to turn into wolves."

The audio clip seems to jump abruptly at that point, and the officers can be heard walking. Shortly after, they begin speaking with Lyles.

Lyles lived in Brettler Family Place, a complex of apartments for formerly homeless people operated by Solid Ground, a Seattle-based nonprofit.

Solid Ground spokesman Mike Buchman said Monday morning there is surveillance footage of the hallway outside of Lyles' apartment, taken during the time of the shooting, and it was turned over to police. It's unclear what can be seen on the footage.

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