Seattle police shooting kills armed 30-year-old woman; read both sides here

by: KIRO 7 News Staff Updated:

SEATTLE - A 30-year-old woman who police said was armed with two knives was shot and killed Sunday afternoon in North Seattle.

Charleena Chavon Lyles called police to report the theft of an X-box. An audio recording indicates two officers spent about two minutes calmly speaking with Lyles, who at one point armed herself with two kitchen knives. Lyles had been ordered by a Seattle Mental Health Court judge to not possess weapons just weeks before the shooting. 

Family told KIRO 7 News that  was a mother of four children and pregnant. They are demanding answers, wondering why police used fatal force. Meanwhile, SPD is conducting a use of deadly force investigation, and recently released dashcam video. See it below.


Key developments:

  • Two officers responded to the Charleena Lyles’ apartment in the Sand Point neighborhood on Sunday.
  • She was armed with a knife, and The Associated Press reported she came at the officers.
  • Both officers fired their weapons. They have not been identified are on paid leave per standard procedure. Lyles was hit multiple times and died inside the apartment.
  • KIRO 7 News obtained documents five days before the fatal incident that showed a judge in Seattle Mental Health Court ordered her not to possess “weapons or items that can be used as weapons.”
  • That court order stemmed from an early-June incident regarding domestic disturbance, where Lyles was found at her Sand Point apartment armed with long metal shears. A police report from the incident notes she “experienced a recent sudden and rapid decline in her mental health.”
  • Lyles was released from jail June 14.
  • Family told KIRO 7 News that Charleena Chavon Lyles was a mother of four children and pregnant. 
  • They are demanding answers, wondering why police used fatal force. 
  • Family members believe that race was factor in the shooting of Lyles, a black woman.
  • Three children were inside the apartment at the time of Sunday’s shooting, and they were taken into protective custody. 
  • KIRO 7 News is sending breaking news alerts when a major development happens in this story. Download our app here

What police say about the shooting

As two officers responded to Lyles’ fourth-floor home in Brettler Family Place 3 near Magnuson Park in northeast Seattle. Police said she came at the officers with a knife, the AP reported.

Police fired shots. Medics performed CPR on Lyles for 10 minutes, but she died in the apartment.

Three children who were inside the apartment at the time. They have been taken into protective custody.

"Both officers had to fire their service weapons, striking the individual," Seattle Police Detective Mark Jamieson said. "Unfortunately, it is a fatality."

>> RELATED: When is Seattle police use of force authorized under law?

Jamieson says detectives are investigating and the woman was known to officers.

Police released audio of the officer-involved shooting on Monday morning. The audio file was captured by the officers’ dashcam video system, which was on in the patrol cars of both responding officers.

KIRO 7 has posted an excerpt of the audio below in which the moments before gunshots were fired and the actual shooting can be heard. Watch it below and scroll down to keep reading. Follow this link to hear the full audio.

The full four minutes of audio can be heard here. It has the conversation between the officers as they discuss the history at the home and their concerns.

No officers were injured.

On Monday night, the police department released a full transcript – along with dashcam images and video that showed the hallway outside Lyles’ apartment. It shows the conversation exchanged before and during the shooting. 

Lyles' recent ‘rapid decline in her mental health’

At a court hearing the afternoon of June 13 – five days before the fatal shooting – Lyles was ordered not to possess “weapons or items that can be used as weapons.”

>> Order not to posses weapons 

That order came after a June 5 incident at the same public housing unit – one that has some similarities to reports in the fatal case on June 18.

Police were dispatched at 11:25 a.m. to the residence for a physical domestic disturbance report. Lyles was located and “had armed herself with a pair of extra long metal shears and was threatening the officers,” according to an incident report.

Police, who described Lyles in the report as either hallucinating or delusional and “out of touch with reality,” said she told them “Ain’t none of y’all leaving her here today!”

>> Previous case incident report 

Officer had their service pistols drawn but not pointed at her. In the report, the officers said they were fearful for their safety. According to the report, at one point Lyles' 4-year-old daughter was sitting in her lap, and, at points, crawling around her waist.

Additional units responded. Lyles reportedly talked about wanting to “morph into a wolf” and talked about “cloning her daughter.

“She also made several unusual religious comments talking about how police officers were devils and also members of the KKK,” according to the incident report.

After multiple commands, Lyles let the scissors fall to the floor between her feet. Police said she refused to step away when ordered, but eventually moved. Her 4-year-old child had an apparent developmental disability, but was calming down after the incident. Police said the girl was later given to Lyles sister.

She also had a son at a child facility in Capitol Hill and two other children in elementary school, police reported.

“After talking with Lyles’ family, we learned that Lyles had experienced a recent sudden and rapid decline in her mental health,” an officer wrote in the incident report. “When we explained to her family the behavior and statements Lyles made to us, they were surprised and informed us she has not had any behavior similar to this in the past. Lyles’ family is concerned for her and they have a strong desire to stabilize her mental health condition before it gets worse.”

She was booked into King County Jail for investigation of harassment.

Her defense attorney told a judge at her June 6 bail hearing that she was assaulted by the father of her oldest child the day before the bail hearing.  

An assistant city attorney told a judge he was concerned about the current incident report and her previous assault convictions and asked that Lyles be held on $7,500 bail.

Lyles’ defense attorney said she was getting mental health treatment and said the June 5 incident “was more of a mental health crisis,” but argued for her release. Lyles’ attorney asked for the case to go to Mental Health Court, part of Seattle Municipal Court. 

Lyles appeared in Seattle’s Mental Health Court on June 13, five days before the shooting. Her court case was ongoing at the time of her death.  

Lyles was prescribed medication, her attorney told a Seattle Mental Health Court judge, but she had not taken it because she was pregnant. The mother had a history of using meth, but completed a chemical dependency assessment, and had not used meth in more than five months, her attorney told the judge on June 13. 

Child Protective Services encouraged Lyles to get a mental health evaluation as part of a parenting plan, her attorney said. She was required to go to the day reporting office for Valley Cities Counseling every Tuesday and Thursday. She also was required to avoid alcohol and drugs, and was subject to random testing. 


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About Lyles' life  

Lyles is survived by four children, family tells KIRO 7 News.

James Bible, an attorney representing relatives of Lyles, said Tuesday that "the officers knew she was vulnerable" when they went to her apartment.

"When we call police for help, we expect protection, we expect safety," Bible said. "It was their responsibility to protect her and they didn't."

He said family members are heartbroken and dedicated to finding justice.

Lyles' cousin, Kenny Isabell, pastor of The Way of Holiness Church of God in Seattle, described Lyles as depressed but not violent. He said she "was going through some things in her life" but was working hard on improving it.

Charleena Lyles

A story in the Federal Way Mirror featured Lyles in 2008. She received a job through a program for at-risk youth.

Lyles had been receiving welfare when she entered the THRIVE program at age 21, according to the report. She was later placed at the Poverty Bay Coffee Company in Federal Way, where she was permanently employed and no longer received welfare.

Brettler Family Place, where Lyles lived, is a community made up of 52 families coming out of emergency and transitional shelters.

What family says about Lyles

When KIRO 7 News was on the scene Sunday, the raw emotion of a family receiving terrible news was on full display.

"My cousin called to tell me it's my sister," Monika Williams cried out in anguish.

Williams said that while her sister suffered from mental health issues, she was not a threat.

"What is she going do to all you police?" Williams said. "You big ass men? I can take her down, I know you can."

"There's no reason for her to be shot in front of her babies.”

Family members believe that the shooting was unnecessary and that race was a factor. Friends and family held a vigil Sunday night for the woman.

How the city of Seattle is reacting

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is promising a full investigation. He called the shooting "a tragedy for all involved."

"Our historic police reforms, from de-escalation training to civilian-monitored force review, are in place to address such crises. This will be fully investigated," Murray said.

He added that the investigation will be reviewed by the federal monitoring team supervising the city's consent decree.

Seattle has been under a 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department that resolved allegations of unconstitutional policing. Seattle officials agreed to an independent monitor and federal court oversight of the city's police department after a Justice investigation found that in previous cases Seattle officers used excessive force.


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