Officers Who Killed Charleena Lyles Had Less-Lethal Options

by Samantha Mendoza
David Ryder/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Sunday, a pregnant mother of four who struggled with mental illness was shot dead in her Seattle home by the two police officers she had called to report a burglary. The cops alleged that they shot the woman, Charleena Lyles, in self-defense after she threatened them with two knives. But the Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the officers who shot Lyles had received crisis training on how to handle individuals exhibiting signs of mental illness.

Officials said the officers knew that Lyles had mental health issues based on a previous encounter with her, and that they had "at least one less-lethal way" to handle the incident. One of the officers who shot Lyles was reportedly a crisis intervention specialist. Bustle has reached out to the Seattle Police Department for comment.

Seattle Police Detective Patrick Michaud told the AP that all officers on the force are required to carry one of three less-lethal weapons for deescalating situations: a baton, pepper spray, or a Taser. Michaud said that the officers did not have a Taser with them at the time, and it is unclear what option they had available.

The names of the officers have not yet been released, and they have been placed on paid administrative leave while the incident is being investigated.

Lyles called the officers to her apartment on Sunday to report that an Xbox video game console had been stolen from her home. Although the altercation began calmly, according to an audio recording of the incident, Lyles soon grabbed a knife when the officers repeated the items that had been stolen from her.

The officers shouted at her to "Get back," and one of the officers told his partner to "Tase her." Seconds later, the officers fired multiple shots. Three of Lyles' children were in the apartment at the time of the incident.

Family members claim that Lyles had been struggling with mental illness after years of abusive relationships and threats that her children would be taken away from her. The Seattle Police Department had responded to domestic abuse incidents at Lyles' home in the past. During one of these incidents, Lyles was arrested for allegedly exhibiting aggressive behavior towards an officer while making "weird" statements.

Family members referred to Lyles as "tiny," and questioned the officers' use of deadly force against her. “Why couldn't they have tased her?” Lyles' sister, Monika Williams, asked the Seattle Times. “They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down."

Lyles' children are currently in protective custody.