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Seattle Family Sues Seattle Police Officers for Wrongful Death

Posted September 21, 2017 - phillipgilbertlaw.com

SEATTLE — The family of Charleena Lyles is suing the two officers who shot and killed Lyles at her apartment on June 18 while she was four months pregnant.

The 30-year-old mother was shot seven times at her Sand Point apartment after she called to report a burglary at her home June 18. Police said officers shot her after she lunged at them with knives.

In August, Lyles’ family filed a claim against the city as the first step in a civil rights wrongful death lawsuit against the Seattle Police Department.

As of Friday, the attorneys for Charles Lyles, Charleena Lyles’ father, have now filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court against the two officers, which the attorneys said is the next step to ultimately sue the city.

The officers, Steven McNew and Jason Anderson, remain on paid administrative leave.

The Seattle Mayor’s Office and Police Department referred all comment to the City Attorney’s Office, which said it had received the lawsuit and was reviewing it.

Attorney Karen Koehler said at a news conference Friday that the family and attorneys are refusing to participate in an inquest into Lyles’ death because of the fundamental unfairness of the process.

An inquest is a fact-finding investigation into a person’s death. It doesn’t determine if someone is civilly or criminally liable.

Koehler said an inquest would be stacked against the victim and in favor of the officers and department under review.

“The inquest is a fake trial. It’s a sham proceeding and in this state, it doesn’t work,” she said.

Koehler said the city promised it would release information in August regarding the incident, which Koehler said they have yet to receive.

“We chose not to wait around … and prepare to fight our lawsuit that they (the city) know is coming,” Koehler said. “We believe it is important that we swiftly act.”

Attorney Travis Jameson said the city has so far been “cherry picking” what information it is releasing.

“This case is an onion. The deeper we dig, the more disturbing facts are going to come to light regarding officers McNew and Anderson,” Jameson said.

Charles Lyles also spoke during the news conference Friday.

Charleena Lyles left behind four children, who are the focus of the legal action, Charles Lyles said.

He emphasized that Charleena’s children were there at the time of the shooting and that they will remember that for the rest of their lives.

The children, three boys and a girl all under the age of 12, are currently not all living together.

“All four of them are not together … two in one location two in another. It’s so sad they have to be separate,” he said. “Not only did they lose their mother, they lost each other. I hope justice is served …”

“She died in front of her kids right there in her own house and that’s that sad part …,” Lyles said.

Lyles said he wants something to be done for the kids’ sake. “They are going to need a lot of psychological help,” he said.

A toxicology report released last month showed Lyles had no traces of drugs, alcohol or medicine in her system when she died.

The family’s attorneys said they hoped the report would dispel any misconceptions about Lyles, who they said was struggling with mental illness.

Koehler said police knew Lyles had a history of mental health issues.

From January through June, police had been called to her apartment 23 times.

Koehler said the police should have de-escalated the situation on the day she died knowing she had mental health issues. Lyles’ family questioned why the officers didn’t use a taser or other non-lethal options during the confrontation.

In June, police released details of events leading up to the shooting including a police dashcam video and video from the hallway outside Lyles’ apartment. Police also released the initial 911 call placed by Lyles.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said both of the officers involved in the shooting had crisis-intervention training.

Lyles’ death sparked public outrage earlier this summer. During Lyles’ vigil in June, hundreds of demonstrators gathered to demand justice for Lyles. Many of them said they believe police had other options besides shooting Lyles.

“It is not with joy, it is with utter devastation that we are filing the lawsuit,” Koehler said.

Jameson said they have a tremendous respect for what officers do and that this is an important issue.

“The worst part of this for Charles, the team and the community, is that she didn’t have to die in a hell fire of bullets ….,” Jameson said.

Charles Lyles said he has felt empty since his daughter’s death.

“My daughter loved life … she loved her kids and she loved life,” he said.