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

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6 days ago Katie Mettler
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Seattle police officers shot and killed a 30-year-old mother of four at her apartment Sunday morning in front of “several children” when the woman “confronted” them with a knife, according to a statement from authorities. The Seattle Times said she had called police to report a possible burglary.

At a vigil Sunday night, family identified the woman as Charleena Lyles, reported the Times, and said she had a history of mental health struggles. She was three months pregnant with her fifth child, they said, and too “tiny” for officers to have felt threatened by her — even if she had a knife.

“Why couldn’t they have Tased her?” Lyles’ sister, Monika Williams, told the Seattle Times. “They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down.”

Authorities offered few details Sunday of what led police to fire their weapons.

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Two patrol officers dispatched just before 10 a.m. Sunday to investigate a reported burglary at Brettler Family Place, an apartment complex for people transitioning out of homelessness, Detective Mark Jamieson said.

Usually, only one officer would respond to a standard burglary call like this one, Jamieson told reporters. But police were familiar with Lyles and her apartment, he said, and her called flagged “hazard information” affiliated with her apartment that “presented an increased risk to officers,” the detective said.

Officers walked to the fourth floor and “at some point, the 30-year-old female was armed with a knife,” Jamieson told reporters. Both officers, who have not been identified, fired their weapons. They performed CPR, according to authorities, but Lyles was later declared dead by fire department officials at the scene.

The children inside at the time were unharmed. Police were trying to determine Sunday if the kids had witnessed the shooting.

Florida Carroll, a relative of the victim, cries into her phone at the scene of a police shooting at the Brettler Family Place Apartments in Seattle on June 18, 2017. © Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times via AP Florida Carroll, a relative of the victim, cries into her phone at the scene of a police shooting at the Brettler Family Place Apartments in Seattle on June 18, 2017.

The department’s Force Investigative Team is investigating the officers’ decision to use deadly force. Both officers will be placed on administrative leave during the investigation, authorities said.

Family members told the Seattle Times that they believe Lyles race — she is black — was a factor in her death. Seattle police told the newspaper that the officers who shot her are white.

Sean O’Donnell, captain of the department’s north precinct, where the shooting took place, said one of the officers is an 11-year veteran of the force and the other is “newer to the department,” reported the Times.

King County jail records show that Lyles was arrested on June 5 on charges of harassment, obstruction of a public official and harassment of a law enforcement officer. She was released conditionally on June 14. Williams told the Seattle Times that one condition was that she receive mental health counseling, though the newspaper could not independently verify that information Sunday.

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