Charleena Lyles was a 30-year-old mother who was shot dead by Seattle police on June 18. Three of Lyles’ children were in the apartment when two police officers shot Lyles in the chest and abdomen. Lyles’ sister says she was pregnant and her family told The Seattle Times that she had mental health issues.
Lyles originally called police to make a burglary complaint. Seattle police maintain that Lyles was brandishing a knife when they arrived, prompting the shooting. Her death has enraged the community with many asking why police did not use non-lethal force and why a woman calling for help ended up being shot.
Police say the shooting death is under investigation.
Authorities confirmed that children were present in the apartment at the time of the shooting, though it is unknown who witnessed it. Police were seen carrying children away from the scene.
“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,” the Seattle police said.
A neighbor, 42-year-old Lhora Murray, told The Stranger that police “handed her two of the victim’s children – a 10-year-old and the toddler with down syndrome.” She told the outlet that the 10-year-old told her, “They shot my mom.”
Lyles’ Facebook was filled with pictures of her children and she had once been the subject of a feature detailing the successful transition from welfare to work. On her Facebook, she described herself as “a child of god.”
As for Lyles’ mental health issues, her family told the Seattle Times that she was “worried that authorities would take her children, one of whom has Down syndrome.” Family members identified Lyles and described her as physically tiny.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down,” said Monika Williams, Lyles’ sister, to The Seattle Times.