The father of Charleena Lyles on Friday filed a civil rights lawsuit against the two Seattle police officers who fatally shot the 30-year-old mother.
Officers Steve McNew and Jason Anderson shot Lyles seven times at her Sand Point apartment on June 18 after responding to a burglary call that she placed over a missing Xbox console. Prior to entering Lyles’ home McNew and Anderson spoke about her history with mental illness, including prior contact with police in which she talked about turning into a wolf, according to dash cam audio.
The situation in Lyles’ apartment quickly escalated when she picked up a knife, according to police reports. McNew told Anderson to use a Taser, but Anderson did not carry the device during the incident. (His batteries were dead.) That’s when the two officers fired the bullets, two of which hit Lyles in the back. Both officers have said they feared for their safety.
The lawsuit alleges that McNew and Anderson acted negligently the day of Lyles’ death by not to preparing for her mental illness, not using de-escalation procedures before opening fire, and not taking into account the safety of her children.
“It made me feel really bad,” said Charles Lyles, Charleena’s father, about reading his daughter’s autopsy report last week. “Seven bullets, two in the back. Her kids were right there.”
Charles Lyles announced the lawsuit with his attorneys this afternoon outside the Seattle Police Department’s downtown headquarters. Last month, he filed a notice of claim with the City of Seattle, the first step to filing a civil lawsuit. Once a 60-day deadline has passed for city officials to respond to that claim, attorneys say they plan to add the city to the wrongful death lawsuit filed today in the Superior Court of Washington for King County.
Attorneys representing Charles Lyles said they plan to request to conduct video depositions with both officers. That can take place after 120 days.
The Seattle Police Department declined to comment, referring The Stranger to the City Attorney’s office.
"We received the complaint today, and though we are not a party, we are reviewing it carefully," said Assistant City Attorney Jeff Wolf.
Attorneys representing Charleena Lyles’ estate also said they would not be participating in an inquest hearing, a process for determining facts when police officers use force resulting in death. During an inquest hearing, a jury answers a series of yes-or-no questions after hearing evidence and questions from both sides. A prosecutor then decides whether to file charges.
Three attorneys representing Charles Lyles signed a letter saying they met with the King County prosecutors who would handle the inquest and everyone in the room, including the prosecutors, agreed that an inquest in this case “will never result in the pressing of criminal charges against either officer” and that the process itself “is unfair because it is lopsided and significantly favors the police over the victim.”
“An inquest is a fake trial. It is a sham proceeding, and in this state, it doesn’t work,” said Karen Koehler, one of the attorneys for Charles Lyles.
Other members of Lyles' family, including siblings, are represented by another lawyer, James Bible, and are not involved in the civil rights lawsuit. They have criticized Charles Lyles for authorizing the release of Charleena Lyles' autopsy.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, who holds the authority to order an inquest, has not done so yet, according to spokesperson Alex Fryer. The office is still waiting for a prosecutor's recommendation, which relies on evidence handed over from police.
Seattle police still have an active use-of-force investigation into the shooting. The Office of Professional Accountability, the body that handles misconduct cases, is investigating why Anderson did not carry a Taser with him.
Lyles' case has led to protests and calls to strengthen police accountability laws.