The pregnant mother of four called police to report a burglary. So why did officers kill her instead?

Veronica Hilbring
Jun, 19, 2017

On Sunday, Seattle police shot and killed Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother of four.

According to the Seattle Times, the officers were responding to her call of a burglary at the Brettler Family Place when they encountered Lyles holding a knife. The officers shot Lyles twice in the abdomen and chest and she died on the scene.

Her three children — ages 11,4 and 12 months – were inside the apartment at the time of her death.

Lyles’ sister, Monika Williams, called the killing unnecessary.

“Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down. There’s no reason for her to be shot in front of her babies. The Seattle police shot the wrong one today.”

Lyles’ family says the woman was suffering from mental illness. King County jail records indicate that Lyles was recently arrested and booked on June 5 for obstruction of a public official and two counts of harassment. Her sister told KOMO News that the obstruction charge stemmed from Lyles refusing to hand over one of her children to officers. She was just released on June 14, four days before her death. 

The Seattle police released the following explanation of the fatal shooting.

  • Shortly before 10:00 am Sunday, two North Precinct patrol officers responded to a report of a waiting burglary call in an apartment building in the 6800 block of 62nd Avenue NE. 
  • Although this was a typical burglary report, two officers were required due to information pertaining to this address that presented an increased risk to officers.  
  • Officers arrived and went to the fourth floor to meet with the complainant. 
  • Officers were confronted by a 30-year-old woman armed with a knife. 
  • Both officers fired their duty weapons, striking the woman. 
  • The officers immediately performed first aid while the Seattle Fire Department responded, but the fire department declared the woman deceased once they arrived.

Journalist Steven Hsieh shared videos on Twitter from a neighbor of Charleena Lyles that captured police officers approaching the Magnuson Park apartment buildings.

Police chief Kathleen O’Toole said The Seattle police department’s Force Investigation Team and Office of Professional Accountability will be reviewing the shooting.

The Seattle police were one of several police departments under a federal consent decree since 2012 after the Department of Justice found the department to routinely engage in excessive use of force mostly against people with mental health and substance abuse issues.

While the community organized a vigil Sunday night, people across social media wanted answers to one question, "Why?" 

A GoFundMe campaign has been created by Williams for Lyles' children.