SEATTLE — Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday night for a rally in the wake of a police shooting that killed a pregnant mother in Seattle.
The crowd was chanting "Say Her Name," followed by "Charleena," while people held signs saying "Black Lives Matter," ''People with Mental Illness Matter," and "Rest in Peace Lena."
Charleena Lyles called police Sunday morning, reporting a burglary that included the theft of an X-box. An audio recording indicates two officers spent about three minutes calmly speaking with Lyles, who later 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 members and Seattle activists question why police didn't use non-lethal options when they knew Lyles had been struggling with mental health issues.
KIRO 7 News obtained documents from an early-June incident at Lyles’ Sand Point apartment, where police found her armed with long metal shears. A police report from the incident notes she “experienced a recent sudden and rapid decline in her mental health.”
Family’s reaction to Lyles’ death
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. And they believe police could have de-escalated the situation.
KIRO 7 News talked to Lyles’ sister, Monika Williams, the day of the shooting.
"What is she going do to all you police?" Williams asked at the apartment the day of the shooting. "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.”
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.
At the time of her death, Lyles had an ongoing harassment and obstruction case in Seattle Municipal Court for the June 5 incident with the long metal scissors. In that case, a judge at her bail hearing raised concerns because Lyles did not follow police commands while her 4-year-old was on her lap.
City documents say that Lyles experienced a recent “rapid decline in her mental health.”
After an early-June incident where Lyles told police she wanted to "morph into a wolf," Lyles was ordered by a Seattle Mental Health Court judge to not possess weapons. Read about that case here.
Lyles was prescribed medication, her attorney told a Seattle Mental Health Court judge, but she had not taken it because she was pregnant.
Newest details about the Seattle police shooting
The transcript of the police recording released by authorities shows that there were 11 commands to “get back.”
One officer said to use a TASER, a brand of stun gun, but neither officer had one. There were 14 seconds between the first command and the shots that killed Lyles. A use of force review board is expected, as is a separate use of force investigation.
According to the transcript, one of the officers also said "we need help" and they were facing "a woman with two knives."
According to the transcript Lyles also said "Get ready (expletive)."
The initial conversation between the pregnant woman and the two Seattle police officers seemed polite and calm. She let them into her apartment. They asked her about the video game console she reporting stolen.
SPD Detective Patrick Michaud said Tuesday that both officers had undergone crisis intervention training to deal with people showing signs of mental illness or other crises.
Lyles' killing came less than two weeks after authorities say she threatened officers with long metal shears when they responded to a domestic disturbance at her home. Read about that case here.
A court-appointed monitor overseeing use-of-force reforms has found that in responding to roughly 10,000 incidents a year in which people are in behavioral crisis, Seattle officers use force just 2 percent of the time. And in the vast majority of those instances, officers used the lowest level of force.
What activists, advocacy groups are saying about the shooting
Hashtags #CharleenaLyles and #SayHerName have trended on Twitter for nearly two days nationwide since the shooting.
In Seattle, advocacy groups and government leaders – including congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, mayor Ed Murray, and Seattle City Councilwoman Lorena González – have released statements questioning police tactics and system failures for people with mental health issues.
Among the dozens of statements is one from the ACLU of Washington Executive Director Kathleen Taylor, who believes the death brings an opportunity for Seattle police to re-examine its de-escalation training and use of force policies.
"The ACLU of Washington is dismayed and heartsick at the killing of Charleena Lyles, a mother of four and longtime Seattle resident, after she called to ask the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to protect her family and home in Magnuson Park from an attempted robbery," she wrote. "Our heart goes out to her family, friends, and neighbors in Sand Point."
A memorial of flowers, signs, and photos is growing outside Lyles’ Sand Point housing complex.
On Tuesday night, hundreds plan to gather at that memorial, according to a Facebook event. Organizers of the event say they are rallying to “mourn another life lost at the hands of systemic racism.”
Nearly $60,000 has been raised for Lyles' family in a GoFundMe campaign that had a $5,000 goal.
- Transcripts show conversation before Charleena Lyles was shot: 'I don't have a taser'
- Memorial grows where armed woman was shot by police; rallies planned
- Seattle police shooting kills armed 30-year-old woman; read both sides here
Cox Media Group