Family and friends mourn, remember pregnant woman shot dead by Seattle police
iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) — Family and friends of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four who was shot and killed by police officers last week, will gather in Seattle on Tuesday evening in memory of the slain woman.
Lyles, 30, was fatally shot in her Seattle apartment at around 10 a.m. Sunday after she called the police to report a break-in at her home, according to authorities. The officers said Lyles confronted them with a knife when they arrived, according to authorities.
Police released an audio recording in connection with the killing on Monday. In it, an officer is heard saying “Get back! Get back!” before a woman responds “Do it! Do it!” An officer radios “We need help!” and the police yell “Get back!” again three more times before five gunshots are heard.
“The officers immediately performed first aid while the Seattle Fire Department responded, but the fire department declared the woman deceased once they arrived,” according to a police statement. “There were several children inside the apartment at the time of the shooting, but they were not injured.”
Lyles’ family told reporters on Sunday that she suffered from mental health issues and appeared to be having a breakdown of some sort when she called the police for help. They also questioned why other non-lethal methods weren’t used to de-escalate the situation.
“She was asking them for help with her domestic violence and they wasn’t giving her none. That’s why the mental breakdown started coming into play,” her sister, Monika Williams, said while speaking at a gathering for Lyles on Sunday.
She said her sister had been arrested earlier this month, with a weapon in her hand, after getting into a confrontation with her child’s father.
“The officers need to pay for what they did,” Williams said. “Even if my sister had a knife in her hand, she weighs like nothing, even if she’s soaking wet. There’s no way you could’ve taken a taser and taken her down? There’s no way you could’ve taken a baton and knocked the knife out of her hand?”
Lyles’ death has garnered the attention of activists in the Washington state area, with many saying that the killing was racially motivated. Lyles was black and the two Seattle Police Department officers who responded to the scene were white, according to the Seattle Times.
The Seattle Police Department has not confirmed the identities of the officers or their races.
One of the involved officers was an 11-year veteran of the force and the other was “newer,” according to Seattle Police Detective Mark Jamieson. They have both been placed on administrative leave as the department investigates the incident, Jamieson said in a statement.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has promised a full investigation of the shooting, which he referred to as “a tragedy for all involved.” A GoFundMe campaign, intended to raise money for Lyles’ children, has already raised more than $53,000– far exceeding its $5,000 goal.
More than 400 people are scheduled to attend Tuesday’s event — called Speak Up Speak Out — to “stand in solidarity” with Lyles’ family, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Lisa Ganser of Olympia, Washington, said she plans to attend the event because she wants to show “love for Charleena — a black loved one murdered by police.”
“Coming together is good … it builds the movement,” Ganser said in an interview with ABC News early Tuesday. “Showing up is important to grieve as a community and support each other.”
Ganser, who noted that she had never met Lyles, said she was also diagnosed with a mental illness.
“[C]ops need to stop killing people with disabilities,” Ganser said.
The fatal shooting comes as Seattle Police Department deals with a 2012 “consent decree,” which called for federal oversight of department’s policies and practices.
The decree was put in place after a Department of Justice investigation concluded that Seattle officers escalated situations, and used unnecessary or excessive force, when arresting individuals for minor offenses, according to a 2011 federal report.
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