The family of Charleena Lyles endured on Wednesday hours of inquest testimony that included graphic descriptions and photographs detailing efforts to protect her children and save her life after she was shot seven times by Seattle police officers.
Her father, Charles Lyles, groaned audibly and left the room when the King County inquest administrator showed the jury a photograph of Lyles’ lifeless body, strapped on a backboard and surrounded by medical equipment and blood-soaked bandages in the hallway of her apartment after two officers shot her in 2017.
Erick Schickler, one of the first officers to respond to the shooting, offered emotional testimony on how he escorted two of Lyles’ children out of the apartment, covering their eyes as they passed their mother’s body.
“The trauma of seeing their mother and what we were about to do would be overwhelming,” he said, noting that officers were preparing to start CPR chest compressions on the 5-foot-3, 110-pound Lyles. “I told [her son] to keep walking and don’t look.
“It would be extremely horrific to a young child … to watch a bunch of grown men pounding on the chest of their mother,” the officer said. “I deemed it very important to get the children out.”
Schickler, a 22-year department veteran, led two of Lyles’ older children out of the apartment, turned them over to neighbor Lhorna Murray, then returned to get an infant still in the apartment. He then returned to the apartment and began performing chest compressions on Lyles, who at that point was lying in a hallway between the apartment’s kitchen and living room.
The jury was shown a short heartrending video from a police cruiser dash-camera, showing Murray and another neighbor, Mary Ruffin, trying to comfort Lyles’ 4-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son outside the apartment.
Ruffin, who also testified, wept on the witness stand as she described the scene. She recalled the boy was emotional and said, “They shot my mom,” with tears streaming down his face.
Karen Cobb, an attorney for the officers, tried to convince Inquest Administrator Michael Spearman that the video should not be shown, stating it was “more inflammatory than probative.” Spearman overruled her objection.
Lyles had called police the morning of June 18, 2017, from her Magnuson Park apartment to report a burglary. Two officers, Jason Anderson and Steven McNew, responded. The officers had seen an “officer-safety” alert with the dispatch, noting that Lyles had assaulted officers two weeks earlier with a pair of scissors.
The officers said they were walking through the apartment with Lyles, discussing the reported burglary, when Lyles pulled a knife and lunged at Anderson. Both officers drew their service weapons and fired. She was struck seven times.
The Lyles inquest is the second of at least 56 pending inquests into police-related deaths in King County. The process — intended to be a public, fact-finding review of deaths involving law enforcement officers — was stalled for years after County Executive Dow Constantine determined it was unfair and biased toward police.
Kieran Barton, another veteran Seattle police officer called to Lyles’ apartment after the shooting, said he found Anderson still standing over Lyles’ body, weapon drawn and held at “low-ready.”
“He appeared to be in shock,” Barton said, adding that he led Anderson away. “He seemed unresponsive.”
Seattle firefighter Richard Harrison said he ordered Lyles’ body moved into an apartment hallway where medics would have more room for lifesaving efforts. They cut away her clothes and attempted to apply trauma dressings to her wounds, he said. But Lyles had no pulse and was not breathing, he said, and he noticed at least three gunshot wounds in her abdomen and chest, with exit wounds in her back.
After medics arrived on the scene, lifesaving efforts resumed for a short time before it was determined that further attempts to revive Lyles would be futile and medics “called it,” Harrison said.
Inquest testimony resumes Monday.