Seattle police released an audio recording and transcript on Monday of the fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old mother of four who had summoned police to her apartment on Sunday to report a burglary.
In the minutes before greeting Lyles at her apartment, two officers can be heard discussing a recent police encounter with Lyles just two weeks earlier that resulted in her arrest.
Soon after they arrive at her door and ask for details about the burglary, the officers can be heard suddenly shouting “get back” and saying she has two knives.
Lyles’ family has decried the shooting and questioned why the officers had not used non-lethal force to disarm her. They said they believed Lyles’ race — she was African-American — was a factor in the shooting. Lyles’ family also said that she was pregnant.
“She was asking them for help with her domestic violence and they wasn’t giving her none. That’s why the mental breakdown started coming into play,” Lyles’ sister Monika Williams said at a gathering on Sunday.
“The officers need to pay for what they did,” she continued. “Even if my sister had a knife in her hand, she weighs like nothing, even if she’s soaking wet. There’s no way you could’ve taken a taser and taken her down? There’s no way you could’ve taken a baton and knocked the knife out of her hand?”
Here’s what we know about Lyles’ death:
The seconds leading up to and including the shooting show the situation quickly escalated from a conversation between Lyles and the two officers to a confrontation. Here’s an excerpt of the transcript:
Officer 1: Yeah. So you said a Xbox was taken?
Officer 1: And then what was the (unintelligible)?
Officer 2: Get back, get back, get back.
Officer 1: Fast back-up.
Officer 2: Get back.
Lyles: Get ready, motherfuckers.
Officer 2: We need help. (Unintelligible) a woman with two knives.
Officer 1: Hey, get back. Get back.
Officer 2: Get back. Tase her.
Officer 1: I don’t have a taser. Get back, get back.
Officer 2: Get back.
Officer 1: Get back.
The two officers have not yet been named, but the police department said one has been with the force for 11 years, and the other is “newer.” The Seattle Times has reported that both officers are white.
The Seattle Police Department’s Force Investigation team and Office of Professional Accountability are reviewing the shooting. The officers are both on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Listen to the full audio below
The first police encounter
Two officers arrived at Lyles’ apartment on June 5 — two weeks before the shooting — after receiving a report of a physical domestic disturbance, but they quickly requested assistance after she “armed herself with with a pair of extra long metal shears and was threatening the officers,” a police report said.
By the time a third officer arrived at the scene, his two colleagues were within 8 to 10 feet of Lyles and had drawn their guns and were telling her to put the scissors on the floor.
According to the police report, Lyles had told the first two officers, “Ain’t none of y’all leaving here today.” The officers later said they had feared for their safety and perceived Lyles’ comment to be “threatening in nature.”
As two other officers responded to the scene, Lyles made what the police report described as “unusual comments” about wanting to “morph into a wolf” and clone her daughter. She also reportedly accused the officers of being devils and members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Lyles eventually dropped the scissors to the floor and moved away from them, and police put her in double-locked handcuffs and called several of her family members to the scene.