Charleena Lyles called police Sunday morning to say she had left her apartment for a few minutes and was burglarized. Video surveillance appears to show no one other than Lyles left or entered her apartment in the hours before she was shot by two officers.
Surveillance video from the hallway outside the apartment of Charleena Lyles shows no one other than Lyles left or entered her apartment in the hours before she was shot and killed Sunday morning by two officers.
The video was released by police on Thursday along with audio of Lyles’ 911 call asking for an officer to respond to her apartment Sunday morning. In the call, Lyles told dispatchers that she had gone out that morning and came home to find someone had broken in.
“I’d like to report a break-in. Can an officer come to my home?” Lyles asks in the call, which lasted about 3 ½ minutes and was made at 8:55 a.m. Sunday, about 45 minutes before she was fatally shot.
“I just walked in. I noticed there’s some stuff missing out of my house. My door was open,” she said. She says she went out to the store earlier and came home to find her door ajar.
However, the surveillance video of the hallway posted Thursday shows no one other than Lyles leaving or entering the apartment in the hours before the shooting, police say. Her doorway appears to the center left of the video, with a doormat outside the door.
At one point toward the end of the video, at the 5:35:45 mark, Lyles leaves her apartment and then returns a short time later. No one enters or leaves the apartment in her absence.
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Police arrived shortly after the video ends.
According to police, the video plays at four times the actual speed, but no portion has been removed. The video also reportedly captures the 24 hours before her death.
The two officers who responded to the apartment — Steven McNew and Jason Anderson — shot and killed Lyles after she confronted them with two knives, police say.
Lyles’ death has prompted outrage from her family and the community and soul-searching by police and community leaders over what could have been done to prevent the shooting of the 30-year-old African-American woman.
Lyles’ family said Sunday that they believe race was a factor. McNew and Anderson, the officers who shot Lyles, are white, police said.
Her family has also said Lyles had been struggling with mental-health issues for the past year and was concerned that authorities would take her children,
McNew and Anderson had undergone Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and one was a certified CIT officer after undergoing additional intensive de-escalation and mental-health intervention training, O’Toole said.
James Bible, the civil-rights attorney representing Lyles’ family, criticized the release of the video and questioned the department’s motives.
“What this sounds like is that police want to form some kind of inference, that either she’s mentally ill or that she’s flat out lying and trying to get officers to the apartment,” Bible said Thursday. “Those inferences are inappropriate. This is not really a fact finding. It’s more like I feel they’re trying to taint the perceptions of Charleena.”
Bible said that the casual chat recorded between officers talking before walking up to Lyles’ apartment shows that, in his mind, “They were not taking her plight seriously enough, and she died for it.”
The department, saying it intends to conduct a transparent investigation into the shooting, also posted the “officer hazard” warning about a police encounter two weeks earlier when Lyles confronted officers with large shears. McNew and Anderson read the warning before going to her apartment.
The mother of four had only recently moved into the Brettler Family Place low-income and special-needs housing after years of being homeless; she had called police saying someone had broken into her fourth-floor apartment while she was out.
According to a transcript of audio from a police-car dash camera — the officers carry small microphones on their uniforms — Lyles tells McNew and Anderson that “someone broke into my house and took my things.”
“I just ran out to the store so I left it unlocked,” she said, mentioning jewelry and a missing Xbox.
It was at that point where scuffling can be heard on the audio before one of the officers yells, “Get Back! Get Back!” Seconds later, there is a volley of gunfire. The officers said she had two knives.
A time stamp on a segment of the hallway surveillance video previously released by the department indicates fewer than three minutes passed between when the officers walked into the apartment and shots were fired.
Three of her four children, a 1-year-old, a 4-year-old with Down syndrome and an 11- year-old, were in the apartment at the time. Seattle police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has said the shooting occurred in the kitchen.
Police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the department plans to release additional information on its ongoing investigation into the shooting over the next few days. An internal investigation into the shooting is expected to take months.
On June 5, 13 days before she was killed, Lyles was arrested and charged with harassment and obstruction after she allegedly held two officers in her apartment while holding large shears. She was eventually persuaded to drop them and was referred to mental-health court. Police had responded to the apartment on a domestic-disturbance call.
During that incident, officers reported Lyles — who had talked about morphing into a wolf with her daughter — was “out of touch with reality” and suffering hallucinations.
Information in this article, originally published June 22, 2017, was corrected June 22, 2017. An earlier version of this story indicated no one was seen leaving or entering Charleena Lyles’ apartment in the 24 hours before she was shot, based on information from Seattle police. However, a review of the video shows Lyles’ leaving and returning to the apartment within that 24-hour period, including shortly before police arrived Sunday morning.