Jury: Cops were ‘justified’ in killing Seattle mother holding knife in 2017
A special jury ruled that two Seattle cops were just justified when they killed a pregnant mother who was holding two knives.
The six-person inquest jury made the ruling Wednesday in the June 18, 2017, death of Charleena Lyles, 30, in her own apartment, the Seattle Times reported.
Seattle cops Jason Anderson and Steven McNew shot Lyles a combined seven times. Anderson said Lyles lunged at him with a knife before the two officers opened fire.
King County, which includes Seattle, has a unique requirement for a public inquest into any police killings in the county. The process has been backlogged in the past few years due to the pandemic and massive reforms.
The inquest is not legally binding, but local prosecutors are expected to use it when determining whether to charge police officers. King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg said his office monitored the seven-day process and would consider charges. Lyles’ family was not so diplomatic.
“Charleena Lyles’ family rejects the ultimate findings from the inquest jury today,” their lawyer Karen Koehler told CNN. “The process focused only on the officers’ states of mind. Not on Ms. Lyles.”
Lyles had a history of mental illness, which was flagged in police files because she had threatened a different officer with a pair of shears just a few weeks before Anderson and McNew killed her. The shears incident ended only with Lyles in custody.
On June 18, 2017, Lyles reported a burglary at her apartment. It was later determined that no burglary actually occurred.
Anderson and McNew responded. Anderson said he was talking normally with Lyles and taking notes on the reported break-in when she suddenly lunged at him with a knife.
Both officers then began yelling at Lyles to “Get back!” In their inquest testimony, the cops claimed they considered Lyles, who stood 5-foot-3 and weighed barely over 100 pounds, to be a deadly threat because she was carrying two knives.
Anderson and McNew killed Lyles in front of her children. The family has repeatedly argued there was no need to open fire.
“I’m just feeling hurt,” Lyles’ father Charles Lyles told local NBC affiliate KING. “Nothing is going to bring my daughter back, but I was hoping that they could at least be accountable for the actions that they did.”
Last year, Seattle paid the Lyles family $3.5 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit.
An internal investigation cleared both officers, and they’re still employed by the Seattle Police Department.
“Five years ago, the Lyles family, the Seattle community, the involved SPD officers, and our entire department were shaken by this unquestionably tragic event,” the department told CNN. “The SPD thanks the inquest administrator and his staff and all involved for their efforts to ensure a fair and transparent fact-finding process, and we thank the jury for its thoughtful and careful deliberation.”