A pregnant woman was fatally shot by Seattle police Sunday after they say she wielded a knife and threatened two officers responding to a burglary at her home, reports the Seattle Times.
The Seattle Police Department has released the audio recording of the incident saying that “transparency throughout the investigation of deadly force incidents is essential to maintaining public trust.”
The mother of four was identified as Charleena Lyles, 30, and was dealing with mental health issues, according to her family.
Lyles’ relatives believe that the officers resorted to deadly force too quickly and that other means of restraining the “tiny” woman could have been used. Her sister, Monika Williams, said that it should have been easy for the two officers.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down.”
Detective Mark Jamieson said two officers responded to a call 10 a.m. Sunday about a reported burglary at Brettler Family Place, an apartment complex for people transitioning out of homelessness.
Jamieson said that two officers were sent because Lyles had a history that “presented an increased risk to officers.” She was arrested on June 5 on charges of harassment, obstruction of a public official and harassment of a law enforcement officer.
The officers can be heard talking to Lyles about the burglary on the audio recording of the incident. After a couple of minutes, the officers are heard yelling, “Get back.” Shots are then fired.
Jamieson described the incident saying that “at some point, the 30-year-old female was armed with a knife,” which prompted officers to discharge their weapons. They performed CPR on Lyles, but she was later pronounced dead at the scene by fire department officials.
Lyles’ three children were in the apartment at the time of the shooting, but it’s unclear if they witnessed the incident. The children – ages 10, 4, and 1 – are currently in the care of family members.
Both officers will be placed on administrative leave while the Force Investigative Team performs an inquiry on the officer’s decision to use deadly force.
Lyles’ family believes that race played a role in the officer’s decision. Lyles is black, and both officers are white.
In a statement that accompanied the release of the audio file, the Seattle Police Department said that both officers were equipped with less lethal force options and that all officers receive Crisis Intervention Training.
One of the officers is an 11-year veteran while the other is “newer to the department,” according to Sean O’Donnell, captain of the department’s north precinct.
Since 2012, the Seattle Police Department has been under a federal consent decree after a Department of Justice investigation found its officers used excessive force as a regular practice. Most of the incidents involved people with mental or substance abuse problems, though a court-appointed monitor recently noted that the department has made changes that show significant progress.
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