A funeral service Monday honored the mother of four, who was fatally shot June 18 by two Seattle police officers who said she threatened them. The shooting sparked a community furor with protests, vigils and a community meeting that drew hundreds.
Charleena Lyles, the 30-year-old woman who was fatally shot by Seattle police last month, was remembered as a loving and dedicated mother of four during a funeral Monday at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
Many who spoke during the solemn service, which drew about 200 mourners, described Lyles — known as “Leena” — as a strong, courageous woman who was unafraid to speak her mind. Among those seated in the church, or in the arms of relatives, were Lyles’ four children, ages 12, 11, 4 and 1.
“I want justice for her, but mainly for her children,” Lyles’ father, Charles Lyles Jr., told the audience.
Lyles was killed in her Magnuson Park home on June 18 by two Seattle police officers after she called 911 to report a burglary. Seattle police say Lyles was shot after she threatened the officers with one or two knives.
Three of her children were in her apartment when she was killed.
Lyles’ family has said the shooting could have been avoided and that they believe race — she was African American — was a factor.
The shooting of Lyles — by two white officers who police say were not carrying Tasers — came amid the burgeoning Black Lives Matter civil-rights movement and just two days after a Minnesota police officer was acquitted of manslaughter in the shooting of Philando Castile, a black motorist whose girlfriend live-streamed video during the fatal encounter.
Seattle police are investigating the shooting of Lyles.
“It’s all right to be mad when people who are supposed to protect us end up killing us,” the Rev. Dorinda Henry said at Lyles’ funeral.
According to court documents and Lyles’ family, the barely 100-pound woman, who was pregnant with her fifth child, had been struggling with a mental-health decline over the past year.
She’d been receiving help, court documents show, but her erratic behavior did not completely abate. Court documents indicate she’d been arrested by Seattle police at home on June 5 after police say she brandished a pair of large shears.
In that incident, Lyles allegedly sat on her couch with a child in her lap and repeatedly refused officers’ orders to drop the scissors.
According to her sister, Monika Williams, Lyles’ life had become more complicated after she moved with her family last year into the Brettler Family Place, a complex of apartments for formerly homeless people operated by Solid Ground.
Lyles told her sister she was uneasy because someone had stolen a set of master keys and the locks were not reset, Williams said after the two-hour service. (A Solid Ground spokesman said on Tuesday no such master key exists.)
Even if she was having a bad day, she would try not to show it, Williams said.
During the service, several people spoke about Lyles’ devotion to her children. They also described her as outgoing, friendly and hard to forget.
Several speakers thanked the people who have protested Lyles’ death on principle even though they didn’t know her.
But one pastor, Bishop Curtis Harmon of the New Destiny Church in Kent, said that Lyles should not be defined by her death nor become simply “a political statement.”
Accept the message of Black Lives Matter, he said, and seek legal change, but also understand that the way Lyles died “is not the totality of her person.”
“Her life and what we are celebrating is not part and parcel of the incident that took her life on June 18,” Harmon said. “There was a whole life before that. Embrace the slogan, but don’t let a whole life be explained by it.”