Seattle police on Sunday fatally shot a woman who authorities say was armed with a knife. The 30-year-old woman, identified by relatives as Charleena Lyles, was killed after she confronted officers who were inside her home responding to a burglary call, authorities said.
Lyles’ relatives said she was pregnant and had mental health issues. Police had previously responded to an incident at her home in which she “presented an increased risk to officers.” Because of that history, two officers, instead of one, were dispatched in response to the burglary call on Sunday, authorities said.
Audio released Monday by the Seattle Police Department depicts an encounter that quickly escalated into violence. Two police officers can be heard having a calm exchange with Lyles, who details how someone broke into her home and stole some items, including a video game console. About two minutes into the exchange, at least one of the officers shouts, “Get back! Get back!”
“We need help,” an officer says.
A female voice in the background utters an expletive as the officers repeatedly warn her to back away. Multiple shots are then fired.
Police said both officers opened fire when the woman, whom they have not formally identified, confronted them “armed with a knife.” It’s unclear what prompted her to pick up the weapon.
Lyles’ family said at a Sunday night vigil that the officers did not need to shoot. Lyles was several months pregnant and had been battling “mental health problems” for at least the last year, according to the Seattle Times.
Her sister, Monika Williams, told the newspaper Lyles was petite and that the officers could have found a different way to respond to a threat. “Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down,” Williams said, overcome with emotion.
“There’s no reason for her to be shot in front of her babies,” Williams shouted. “The Seattle police shot the wrong one today.”
There were several young children inside the apartment at the time of the shooting, shortly before 10 a.m., police said. None of them was injured.
Seattle police said both officers were equipped with less lethal force options. The incident is under investigation. The two officers involved, whom police have not named, will be placed on paid administrative leave, Seattle police said.
One officer is an 11-year veteran of the police force while the other is newer to the department, Seattle Police Department North Precinct captain Sean O’Donnell told the Times.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called the incident a “tragedy for all involved.”