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Autopsy: Charleena Lyles shot 7 times; no drugs in system

Seattle Post-Intelligencer logo Seattle Post-Intelligencer 8/31/2017 By LYNSI BURTON, SEATTLEPI STAFF

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 20: Flowers, photos, and other items are placed at a memorial for Charleena Lyles at the apartment building in which she was killed on June 20, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Officers from the Seattle Police Department shot and killed Lyles, a pregnant mother of four, on June 18. © Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 20: Flowers, photos, and other items are placed at a memorial for Charleena Lyles at the apartment building in which she was killed on June 20, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Officers from the Seattle Police Department shot and killed Lyles, a pregnant mother of four, on June 18. An autopsy released Wednesday by the attorneys for Charleena Lyles' estate show that Seattle cops shot her seven times June 18 and that she had no drugs or alcohol in her system at the time of her death.

The reports also confirmed that she was nearly four months pregnant with a male fetus.

The autopsy gives more insight into Lyles' death at the hands of two police officers after she called 911 for help with a reported burglary at her Sand Point home. The shooting occurred in front of three of her four children after the officers said she began brandishing knives.

The shooting has since prompted vigils, marches and a town hall and has galvanized the local Black Lives Matter movement.

The Seattle Police Department's investigation into the matter continues.

Attorneys Karen Koehler and Travis Jameson, representing Lyles' estate, distributed the autopsy report Wednesday after having received it Tuesday night.

However, other members of the family objected to the report's release. Corey Guilmette, an attorney for three of Lyles' siblings and two of her cousins, wrote in an email sent Wednesday afternoon that Lyles' father allowed the autopsy to be released against their wishes.

He accused Koehler of "reckless conduct."

The autopsy, issued by the King County Medical Examiner, indicates that Lyles, 30, was shot seven times, four of those from the back, Koehler said.

One shot in the middle of her stomach grazed her uterus. Another entered her uterus and struck her fetus. Yet another shot struck a major vein closely connected to the heart and also hit a lung, Koehler said.

Any one of those three shots alone could have been fatal, she said.

RELATED: Women of color decry Charleena Lyles's death at town hall meeting

Furthermore, the State Patrol's toxicology report showed that no drugs -- medication or otherwise -- or alcohol were detected in her blood.

"This isn't an individual filled with drugs that would make them unpredictable," Koehler said. "... Calling the police into your home for help should not result in your death."

Lyles had exhibited mental health challenges during a response from police less than two weeks before her death.

After calling the police to report domestic violence, cops found her holding one of her children and brandishing long shears, talking about morphing into a wolf and accusing the police of being part of the Ku Klux Klan. In that incident, police persuaded her to drop the shears and waited for her sister to arrive before taking her to jail.

Lyles was processed through King County's mental health court and released with a set of conditions just days before her death. She was ordered to seek mental health treatment but likely didn't have time to access help before she was killed, Koehler said.

When an officer was called to her burglary report on June 18, an officer safety warning attached to her name prompted him to call an additional officer. They even discussed her recent incident with the shears. But they determined she had no mental health flag -- even though she was tagged with a mental health caution -- and entered her home to begin a seemingly routine burglary investigation.

"Officers never should have allowed themselves to get in that position," attorney Jameson said.

RELATED: SPD: Charleena Lyles did have mental health caution, despite earlier reports

Koehler wondered Wednesday why the officers -- Jason Anderson and Steven McNew -- weren't more prepared to handle a potentially unpredictable person and claimed that institutional failures caused Lyles' death.

"Not one shot should have been fired, let alone seven," she said.

Information released in the days after the shooting indicated that neither officer carried a Taser, even though one of them was required to do so per agency policy. That point has become a controversial detail in the case, though Seattle paid $45,000 to a woman in 2012 after a long legal battle for using a Taser on her while she was pregnant.

Attorneys filed a claim against the city of Seattle on behalf of Lyles' estate and her four children earlier this month, claiming civil rights violations and wrongful death, along with several other allegations. They plan to file a lawsuit after the claim is 90 days old, according to procedure.

RELATED: Claim filed against city for Charleena Lyles' death

Jameson also opined that the federally mandated "use of force" reforms undertaken by the Seattle Police Department starting in 2012 haven't totally taken hold in the agency's culture. He also called upon the Seattle Police Officers Guild to drop its opposition to Mayor Ed Murray's proposal to expand the use of body cameras.

Koehler said Lyles' father, Charles Lyles, continues to be distraught over his daughter's death.

"He's so hurt," she said. "He didn't know that he was going to have a male grandbaby. He found this out through coroner's reports.

"I'm weeping inside," Koehler added. "This is a horrible thing that happened. A baby was shot and killed. It's just so sad."

But Guilmette, the attorney representing Lyles' siblings and cousins, had sharp words for Koehler.

"(S)he placed Charleena's children in a position of possibly having to hear about details of their mother's killing on the news or at school without any preparation," Guilmette wrote. "Additionally, she may well have compromised the longer term interests of the children by speaking publicly about the facts of the shooting prior to the coming inquest and without a chance for strategic reflection with counsel for the rest of the family about how these newly-produced findings may affect any litigation or claims."


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