Two years after Charleena Lyles’ death, a King County inquest will review Seattle police’s fatal shooting of the pregnant 30-year-old mother of four.
King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered the deadly-force inquest Tuesday into the June 2017 shooting that will determine whether the actions of the two officers who shot Lyles complied with department policy and training. Inquest proceedings have not been scheduled, said Alex Fryer, a spokesman for Constantine.
Police responded to Lyles’ Magnuson Park apartment in 2017 after she reported an attempted burglary. Police said Lyles lunged at them with one or two knives, and two officers shot her seven times and killed her.
The shooting sparked outrage among Seattle residents and those who knew Lyles. Some accused the department of racism, as Lyles was black and both officers are white. An inquest was initially ordered later that year, but was put on hold when Constantine called for an overhaul of the process in December 2017.
Since announcing the resumption of inquests in May, Constantine has ordered them for the 2017 killings of Damarius Butts, who was shot by Seattle police, and Isaiah Obet, who was shot by Auburn police. The inquest hearings in those cases have not been held.
Two other 2017 cases that were ordered for inquest before the suspension — the deaths of Tommy Le, shot by a King County sheriff’s deputy, and Eugene D. Nelson, shot by Kent officers — are pending, along with the cases of several other officer-involved deaths that occurred after the inquest process was put on hold.
After the overhaul, the inquests are now overseen by retired judges. Retired Washington Court of Appeals Judge Michael Spearman is expected to oversee the inquest into Lyles’ death.
Under the new process, the chief officer of the law-enforcement agency will testify to a panel of up to six people about the department’s use-of-force training and policies. The families of those who were killed can choose to be represented by a King County public defender, and they can present a statement about their loved one to the panel.
The panel will be asked to determine whether officers’ actions complied with department training and policy. The inquests are an administrative, not legal, process and seek to determine facts rather than guilt. Constantine has acknowledged that the findings have no binding authority over a department, its policies or how they are implemented.
A Seattle police review board found the shooting of Lyles to be within department training and policy, although one officer was disciplined for not having his Taser with him at the time of the shooting, against department policy.
Lyles’ family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the two officers that was dismissed by a King County judge in January. A lawsuit brought by the family against the City of Seattle is ongoing.
Information from Seattle Times archives included in this report.