Dozens of people attended a vigil Sunday night for a 30-year-old woman fatally shot by Seattle police as department use-of-force investigators probed how officers wound up killing a woman who had called police for help.
Just after 10 a.m. Sunday, Seattle police responded after the woman had called to report an attempted burglary at her Magnuson Park apartment. At some point, police said, she displayed a knife and two officers shot and killed her.
Family members said she was several months pregnant and had been struggling with mental-health issues for the past year. They said she was concerned authorities would take her children, one of whom they said has Down syndrome.
Family members arriving about two hours later were distraught and questioned why police had to shoot her. She was “tiny,” they said, and believe her race — she is African American — was a factor.
Caution: Strong language. Monika Williams, sister of the woman shot by Seattle police in her apartment in Magnuson Park Sunday June 18, 2017, reacts to learning of her sister’s death and that the woman’s children were in the home at the time.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down,” said Monika Williams, Lyles’ sister.
Police Detective Mark Jamieson said officers were alerted to “hazard information” in the system after a previous encounter with the woman, which prompted a two-officer response Sunday morning when she called to report an attempted burglary in her fourth-floor unit at Brettler Family Place apartments.
— Bettina Hansen (@bettinahansen) June 18, 2017
Murray and police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said the shooting will be reviewed by the department’s Force Investigation Team and the Office of Professional Accountability. The King County Prosecutors’ Office also will review the incident and likely call for a coroner’s inquest.
Williams, the grieving sister, wept and yelled epithets outside the apartment, telling reporters Lyles had been shot and killed by police. Another woman, who later said she was a stepsister, Florida Carroll, wept uncontrollably and wrung her hands.
She said Lyles had been arrested earlier this month by officers responding to another call after she had armed herself as protection against her boyfriend. Jamieson said she had a pair of scissors during the previous encounter.
King County Jail records indicate Lyles was arrested and booked into jail June 5 for obstruction of a public official and two counts of harassment filed in Seattle Municipal Court. She was released conditionally June 14. Details of the June 5 incident were not immediately available.
Sean O’Donnell, captain of the Seattle Police Department North Precinct, said one of the officer’s involved in the shooting is an 11-year veteran of the force. The other he described as “newer to the department.”
The Seattle Police Department has been under a federal consent decree since 2012 after a Department of Justice investigation found its officers routinely engaged in excessive use of force, most often against people with mental or substance abuse problems. Federal investigators also found evidence of biased policing.
A brother of Lyles, Domico Jones, said his sister had suffered from mental-health issues for the past year and the family had tried to help her. He said care of the 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome required Lyles’ round-the-clock attention.
“She was not a person you would fear or feel intimidated by,” Jones said.
The Brettler Family Place is part of a complex of apartments for formerly homeless people operated by Solid Ground. Mike Buchman, communications director for Solid Ground, said about 400 people live at the complex in Magnuson Park.
By early Sunday evening, more than 50 people had gathered outside the apartment complex to support Lyles’ family. They mounted photos of Lyles and her children on black plastic chairs, chalked her name on the pavement and filled in the letters with votive candles.
Among those assembled was Andrè Taylor, an activist whose brother, Che Taylor, was fatally shot last year after a confrontation with police. He said a family member of Lyles had contacted him for advice. “They haven’t gone through this,” he said. “I have.”
“Each time she called, it cost her something,” said Wanda Cockerhern, a cousin. “This time it cost her her life.”