SEATTLE – A investigative jury found on Wednesday that two Seattle police officers were justified in fatally shooting a mentally unstable, pregnant, black mother of four in her apartment when she threatened her with knives in 2017.
The six King County coroner’s jury found unanimously that white officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew had no reasonable alternative to the use of deadly force. The findings sparked an angry outburst from Lyles’ father, who yelled obscenities and yelled, “You killed my daughter!”
Officers testified that Lyles, who two weeks earlier threatened other officers with scissors and spoke of turning into a wolf, spoke quietly to them after calling to report an alleged burglary when she suddenly lunged at you with a knife.
As the officers drew their guns, Lyles yelled, “Do it!” and cursed them. The officers repeatedly shouted at her to come back before shooting and beat her seven times. The jury found that even if the officers had a taser, it would not have been an effective or appropriate option as she approached them in the cramped apartment, the Seattle Times reported.
Her crying baby crawled over her and climbed on top of her as she died, and a boy came out of a bedroom and tearfully said, “They shot my mother,” officials recalled in emotional statements.
Lyles was 15 weeks pregnant.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg issued a statement saying he will review the evidence presented at the investigation, as well as the findings, to decide whether to press charges against the officers.
“The death of Charleena Lyles is a tragedy,” Satterberg said. “Details of the incident shared during the investigation are heartbreaking.”
Her death sparked a storm of public protests and was held up by supporters of police reform as evidence of unnecessary police violence and institutional racism by law enforcement.
Family members questioned why the officers, trained to deal with people showing signs of mental illness or other behavioral crises, didn’t use non-lethal methods to suppress them. Anderson didn’t have his taser with him – the battery was dead – and he was later suspended for two days without pay for violating department guidelines.
When asked by family attorney Karen Koehler, a Seattle police detective who helped investigate the shooting, admitted that officers had made no plan for dealing with Lyles, aside from not allowing her to get behind her get.
The family settled a $3.5 million civil suit against the officers and the Seattle Police Department last year.
The inquest began after a year-long delay prompted by revisions to the coroner’s investigative process. It comprised six days of testimony. The jury was asked to consider Lyles’ death in light of the 2017 Police Deadly Force Act, which requires the officer to establish “actual malice” – a standard that was changed in 2018 by the approval of Initiative 940 voters, after Prosecutors and lawmakers had concluded that meeting that standard to charge an officer with murder was virtually impossible.
A jury of inquiry can determine whether law enforcement violated policy and possibly criminal statutes. But any decision to charge a police officer is made by the King County Attorney’s Office.
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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/07/07/inquest-seattle-police-shooting-of-pregnant-woman-justified/ Seattle police killing of pregnant woman justified