An African-American mother was fatally shot by Seattle police Sunday morning after she called them for help.
According to The Washington Post, Charleena Lyles called police to report a possible burglary. When officers arrived, Lyles allegedly “confronted” them with a knife, according to a statement from the authorities, which prompted them to fire their weapons.
Lyles was also reportedly three months pregnant when she was shot.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her?” Lyles’s sister, Monika Williams, said to The Seattle Times. “They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down.”
Lyles’ relatives maintain that even if she was armed with a knife, the officers could have overpowered her due to her “tiny” stature.
Officers were initially called to investigate a reported burglary at Brettler Family Place, which is a residential complex for people transitioning out of homelessness.
Seattle Police Det. Mark Jamieson says a woman was shot multiple times by 2 responding officers to burglary call, kids in apartment at time pic.twitter.com/yUErx5WI6N— Bettina Hansen (@bettinahansen) June 18, 2017
Apparently, authorities had previously encountered Lyles and felt that her phone call flagged “hazard information” related to her apartment that “presented an increased risk to officers,” according to Detective Mark Jamieson.
After shooting Lyles, the unnamed officers reportedly administered CPR, but were unable to revive her. She was later pronounced dead at the scene by fire department officials.
There were multiple children inside the apartment when the incident occurred; however, none of them were harmed.
As usual with these police shootings, the two officers involved will be placed on administrative leave while a formal investigation takes place.
Authorities released an audio recording that picked up some of the interaction between the officers and Lyles with a statement confirming that the two officers “were equipped with less lethal force options, per departmental policy.” There was a moment in which the woman was telling officers about an Xbox that she claimed had been stolen. Soon after, the confrontation escalated, and officers began shouting at the woman to “get back” before gunshots rang out.
Before her untimely death, Lyles was arrested earlier this month for obstruction of a public official and harassment of a law enforcement officer. She was released days later on the condition that she receive mental health counseling, according to Williams.
In that incident, Lyles had scissors in hand and allegedly refused to release one of her children to officers until Williams arrived.
Williams said Lyles struggled with untreated mental health problems. According to Lyles' cousin, Robin Cockerham, the officers were aware of her issues.
Lyle's cousin, Robin Cockerham, says, "You already knew she had a [mental] problem. Why didn't you tase her?"— Steven Hsieh (@stevenjhsieh) June 18, 2017
Approximately 100 people held a vigil Sunday night in Lyles’ honor. They taped photos of her and her children to the back of plastic chairs and spelled her name in candles on the sidewalk.
Situations can be deescalated, and armed civilians can be taken down without being shot to death. The fact that these police shootings continue to occur at an alarming rate indicates a lack of regard for human lives, particularly people of color.
This tragedy comes just days after Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile last year, was acquitted of criminal charges in his death. It would come as no surprise if Lyles' killers faced the same outcome.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Highway Patrol Images