On Sunday, two Seattle police officers shot and killed a woman in front of her children, after she called them to her home to report a possible burglary. Charleena Lyles was a pregnant mom of four. She also appears to be the latest in a long line of African-Americans to become victims of excessive police force.
According to police statements, the two white officers responding to Lyles' call opened fire on her after she allegedly displayed a knife. "Several" of her children were in the apartment where it happened, according to authorities, although none of them were physically injured. Lyles was also several months pregnant, according to what her relatives told The Seattle Times, and had been struggling with some mental-health issues recently. According to relatives, she was reportedly worried that the police might try to take her children away from her. One of those children, a 4-year-old girl, has Down Syndrome, and Lyles had been devoted to her care.
Lyles's sister, Monika Williams, questioned the excessive force used by the officers, and told The Seattle Times that her sister had been tiny, adding, “Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down.”
According to the police statement, both of the officers will be put on "paid administrative leave" during the department's investigation into the death. One of the officers is an 11-year veteran of the force, while the other is a more recent hire. The Seattle Police Department did not immediately respond to Romper's request for comment.
Lyles became known to Seattle police earlier this month, after they responded to a call where she was allegedly using scissors to defend herself against a boyfriend. At the time, she was arrested on counts of "harassment, obstruction of a public official and harassment of a law enforcement officer," according to The Washington Post.
A released audio recording from the police officers' dashboard cameras shows that they were aware of Lyles's mental health problems going into the situation on Sunday.
Lyles' death comes just days after a jury acquitted the police officer who shot Philando Castile, a black man who was killed after being pulled over for a broken taillight. And it is part of a disturbing pattern within the Seattle Police force. In 2011, the Department of Justice found that the police department routinely used excessive force, and expressed concerns that the department could engage in biased policing against minorities and those with mental health issues.
Since that report, the department has been working on police reform. Apparently, though, there is still much more work to be done to ensure that women like Lyles get the help they need, instead of being shot and killed in front of their children.