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Charleena Lyles, a 30-year- black mother of four, was shot and killed by two white Seattle police officers in a transitional housing complex for the homeless on Sunday, leaving her family and the local community demanding responsibility for the officers’ actions.
Police say they were responding to a burglary report over dispatch, which Lyles reportedly called in. The officers claimed that Lyles showed a knife, leading the police officers to discharge their firearms and fatally shoot her.
Monika Williams, Lyles’ sister, told reporters that her sister was also pregnant with a fifth child and that she was killed in front of her children. Lyles’ family says the officers’ actions were motivated by racism.
“The officers need to pay for what they did,” Williams said, the Stranger reports. “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?”
The expectation of black people having to be perfect and not in distress to not get killed by police is exhausting. #CharleenaLyles— Kris (@thatkblife) June 19, 2017
The Seattle Police Department later released an audio recording of the officers’ conversation leading up to the shooting, as well as the confrontation between them and Lyles. According to the SPD, normally one officer reports to burglary crimes, but two officers were sent to Lyles’ residence “because of a recent officer safety caution associated with the caller.”
The police department also reports that both officers “were equipped with less lethal force options, per department policy,” raising further questions as to why both officers chose to shoot Lyles. The two men are currently on leave.
UPDATE: Audio of yesterday's officer involved shooting and the moments leading up to it is now available. https://t.co/6JGqL8Lppw— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) June 19, 2017
Lyles’ brother, Domico Jones, told the Seattle Times that the apartment management wanted Lyles out of the housing complex. But he questions why the police turned to lethal force.
“She was not a person you would fear or feel intimidated by,” Jones told the Times.
Lyles’ death follows days after Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of fatally shooting Philando Castile, a 32-year old nutrition services supervisor who was pulled over during a traffic stop. Both incidents point to a much larger, longstanding trend of racial profiling and officers quickly resorting to shooting at black people in this country.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.