SEATTLE — A cousin of a mother who was shot and killed by Seattle police questioned Monday why officers didn’t use a Taser or other non-lethal options during the encounter with the woman who he said had been struggling with mental health issues in the past year but wasn’t a violent person.
Kenny Isabell, pastor of The Way of Holiness Church of God in Seattle, said 30-year-old Charleena Lyles was pregnant and some of her four other children were inside the apartment during the Sunday shooting.
Lyles was depressed and “was going through some things in her life,” but she was attending his church regularly while making an effort to improve her life, Isabell said. “Now this. It’s unfortunate. It’s disturbing.”
The two officers had gone to Lyles’ apartment after a call about a burglary. At some point, police said, the woman confronted them with a knife, and both officers fired their weapons.
“The officers immediately performed first aid,” but medics arrived and determined she had died, the Police Department said.
Lyles was black, and Isabell said he’s frustrated with police killing black people across the country.
“Do our lives really matter to them?” he asked. “What do you want from us? We try to comply and this is still happening. You’re killing our young men and now a young woman has died.”
The names of the officers involved were not released.
Police released a roughly 4-minute audio recording of the officers initially discussing “a safety caution” about the address and a previous encounter with the woman before they reached her fourth-floor apartment in Seattle’s Sand Point neighborhood.
On the audio, the woman and the officers can be heard discussing the break-in in which an X-Box video game was taken. Roughly 15 seconds later, officers can be heard saying, “Get back! Get back!” and “We need help” before gunfire erupts. A child’s cry is heard in the background.
The department said it had been a typical burglary report and “two officers were required due to information pertaining to this address that presented an increased risk to officers.”
Seattle Municipal Court records show that Lyles was arrested June 5 and booked into King County Jail. She pleaded not guilty to two counts harassment and obstructing a police officer at her arraignment the next day.
Further details of the incident weren’t immediately available. She was released from jail Wednesday on certain conditions, according to King County jail records.
Detectives from the use of force team will investigate the Sunday shooting that Mayor Ed Murray called a tragedy for everyone involved.
“Our historic police reforms, from de-escalation training to civilian-monitored force review, are in place to address such crises. This will be fully investigated,” Murray said.
He added that the investigation will be reviewed by a federal monitoring team supervising a consent decree involving the Police Department.
Seattle officials agreed in 2012 to an independent monitor and federal court oversight of the department after a federal investigation found Seattle officers routinely used excessive force.
Under the agreement with the Justice Department, Seattle police adopted a new policy dictating that uses of force by officers must be reasonable, necessary and proportional to the threat or urgency of the situation.
Deadly force is permitted only when there’s an imminent threat of death or serious injury to an officer or others.
In a report in April, the court-appointed monitor found that the reforms had prompted a stunning drop in how often officers use serious force — with no rise in crime or officer injuries.
During a 28-month span from 2014 to 2016, incidents in which Seattle officers used force that caused or could be expected to cause injury fell at least 60 percent from a similar period from 2009 to 2011.