Police Accountability

Charleena Lyles's Father Sues Officers Who Shot Her

Charles Lyles's legal counsel said they would not participate in the inquest hearing organized by the city and King County.

By Hayat Norimine September 8, 2017

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The father of Charleena Lyles, the black mother of four fatally shot by Seattle police, on Friday filed a civil lawsuit claiming a wrongful death against the two officers who killed his 30-year-old daughter in June. 

The attorneys of Charles Lyles, Charleena Lyles's father, said Friday at a press conference that they're demanding answers from Seattle police, and that they can't wait for the city to choose when that'll be. Despite an earlier 60-day notice against the city, Charles Lyles's legal counsel sued the two officers individually first and said they will not participate in the inquest hearing organized by King County and the city—a process his attorney Karen Koehler called a "fraud," a "fake trial" and a "sham proceeding" that would play into what she calls a misleading police narrative. 

Attorney Travis Jameson said police have been "cherry picking" information to release to the public and consulting with police excessive force experts. Seattle police declined to comment and referred to the city attorney's office. 

"We strongly suspect that this case is an onion, and the deeper we dig, the more disturbing facts are going to come to light," Jameson said Friday at a press conference in front of the Seattle Police Department headquarters downtown, joined by other attorneys, Charles Lyles, and three other family members. "By pushing (the lawsuit) forward now, we can start that clock sooner to inhibit the city from withholding that information that they promised to us and circling the wagon and preparing their defense." 

Toxicology and autopsy reports released by Charles Lyles and his lawyers on August 30 showed Charleena Lyles was shot seven times by cops, including twice from the back, and that she had no drugs in her system. She was fatally shot with three of her children in the apartment after she reported a burglary and allegedly brandished a knife or two, according to police.

Audio showed the officers were aware she struggled with mental health, and that she had an officer safety caution based on an incident that had been deescalated by Seattle police just two weeks earlier. (Officer Steven McNew, a crisis intervention specialist, had asked Officer Jason Anderson if there was a mental health caution on Lyles, and Anderson responded, "no." Police hazard information released by the department showed there was one. It's still unclear whether he hadn't seen it or if the system hadn't processed the caution yet.)

Charles Lyles's releasing the autopsy report had been criticized by Charleena Lyles's three siblings and two cousins, who are represented by attorney Corey Guilmette from the Public Defenders Association and said he hadn't consulted with the rest of the family. Charles Lyles's attorneys say he's the only person authorized by the court to bring the case against the officers and city as the holder of the family's estate. 

The rest of the family again responded Friday with a separate released statement and said they will be participating in the inquest hearing, pointing out that civil suits often settle before trial, often making the inquest the only time family members get to publicly question police. They will be meeting with the King County executive's office next week in light of "deep concerns about the inquest process." Koehler said there are no plans to settle.

"Charleena’s Seattle-King County family respects Mr. Lyles’s decision. However, they believe that family participation in the inquest is essential," the statement said. "If the family does not participate in the inquest, the public will only hear a one-sided story in the inquest, told by the attorneys representing the officers who killed Charleena."

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