NOTE: This case has not reached any result as it is still in the earliest stages. However, given the national and local interest in the case, we have provided the initial case profile below. Please check back frequently, as we will continue to provide updates by way of this webpage.
The Seattle Police Department has been under a Federal Consent Decree since 2012, after a Department of Justice investigation concluded SPD officers violated the U.S. Constitution and Federal Law by engaging in institutional, routine and widespread excessive use of force, most often against people with mental illness or substance-abuse problems. Federal investigators also found evidence of racially biased policing.
This case presents the basic question:
Since when is it okay for police to ignore mental health crisis and de-escalation procedures when responding to a call for help from a pregnant black woman with well known mental health issues, so that they end up shooting and killing her in front of her children?
The SPD was called to answer this and numerous other questions posed by the Seattle City Council following the killing of Charleena Lyles. The SPD has failed to acknowledge that the police actions and failures on June 18, 2017 were precisely the same as those that gave rise to the DOJ investigation and determination that SPD was violating the U.S. Constitution and Federal Law.
As of this date the SPD has released hundreds of pages of documents relating to this case, yet has failed to answer any of the following questions, relying on the excuse of pending internal investigations:
- Why didn’t the officers take the time to assess the situation before entering the apartment – especially when the alleged burglary happened up to three hours before and involved computer games – making it a minor non-priority event;
- Why did officers enter Charleena’s apartment without having first adequately determined that she had a caution both for mental health issues and for officer safety;
- Why did officers fail to first have a plan before entering Charleena’s apartment given what they should have known about her recent history;
- Why did Officer Anderson take the lead when it was Officer McNew who was certified in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT);
- Why did Officer Anderson tell Officer McNew that there was no mental caution when there was;
- Why did the officers not first determine what type of weapons they had or didn’t have;
- Why didn’t Officer McNew know that Officer Anderson had failed to bring his taser;
- Why was Officer Anderson allowed by his superiors and others within the department to not carry his mandated taser;
- Why did Officer McNew direct Officer Anderson to tase Charleena if tasing would not have been effective;
- Why didn’t the officers instruct Charleena to drop the kitchen knife/knives before they shot and killed her;
- What kind of an order is “get back”;
- Why didn’t the officers warn Charleena that they were going to shoot and kill her before they did; and
- Why wasn’t a Crisis Response Team sent out when Charleena placed the call.
The full text of the claim form filed with the City is here.
The Appendix of Charleena Lyles Estate’s documents included with the claim form is here.