Attorneys representing the family of Charleena Lyles announced today that the City of Seattle agreed to a $3.5 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the Seattle Police Department and two white officers who shot and killed Lyles in her north Seattle home on June 18, 2017. She had called the cops to report a burglary.
The police shooting of Lyles, a 30-year-old Black mother of four who was pregnant at the time, inspired widespread outrage and sparked protests against excessive use of force by SPD, including calls for reforming and defunding the police during the city’s Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020.
“I appreciate each and every person that was out there willing to put their bodies out there, to be pepper sprayed, to fight for something bigger than themselves,” said Lyles’s cousin, Katrina Johnson, one of several members of Lyle’s family present via Zoom during the press conference. “And being willing to say my cousin’s name. . . . We’re not done until the two officers who murdered my cousin are held criminally liable.”
Lyle’s 16-year-old son, who chose simply to be identified as Q, said that "no amount of money will bring my mom back," and that he still wanted "to see the cop that did this prosecuted.”
Lyles is survived by two girls and two boys aged 5 to 16. One of Lyle’s aunts will adopt two of the children, and attorneys said the money would be held in trust for the kids.
Family members filed the lawsuit in September 2017 and faced a setback on January 4, 2019, when King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector disallowed testimony from most of the expert witnesses the family had called upon to testify. On appeal, however, the Superior Court reversed the dismissal in February of this year. The case had been set for trial in early 2022.
The family sued the City and police officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew. The officers claim that Lyles threatened them with a knife, but the family insists that Lyles, who was a victim of domestic violence and who had a long history of mental illness, was subjected to excessive use of force in the killing. Members of the family and their attorneys faulted the officers for failing to use de-escalation techniques, and for leaving a non-lethal Taser behind in a locker during the encounter, in defiance of SPD policy.
“What’s happening is we’re getting police responses to a mental health crisis that’s been ignored for years,” said attorney Ed Moore. “Would this have happened on Mercer Island? I doubt it. But in this instance, in Section 8 housing, these officers had not much of a plan, didn’t follow the plan they had, didn’t follow policy, and didn’t follow training.”
Attorneys with Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore, which represented Lyle’s family, said that the county’s inquest into the shooting will continue, and that this would be a first step toward any sort of criminal prosecution of the officers.
In an email, Seattle City Attorney's Office spokesperson Dan Nolte said, “It is indisputable that this has been a tragedy, and we are glad to have some level of closure for the parties. We stand by the multiple layers of review of this event and are pleased that the officers will be dismissed from the lawsuit. The remaining parties will be mutually seeking judicial approval for a resolution of all claims."
Attorney Karen Koehler said the decision to dismiss the case meant that neither the City nor the officers had to apologize or admit fault for wrongdoing. "I challenge the City or the officers to say we’re sorry, we failed. That a life was lost and that these children have to live with this the rest of their lives," she added.