[SEATTLE, Wash.] – (MTN) After weeks of testimony, the jury considering the evidence presented during the Charleena Lyles inquest concluded after 20 hours of deliberation, Seattle Police Officers used “reasonable force” and were left with no other options beyond lethal force.
Lyle’s grandfather exploded in anger after the verdict was read, and was escorted from the courtroom.
The jurors had to use the legal standard for evaluating user of force police conduct that existed in 2017, which required the finding of “malice” or “evil intent.” In 2019, Washington state law was changed to remove the requirement. Jurors were asked to consider more than 100 questions, including if the officers’ actions were done with “malice.”
On June 17, 2017, Charleena Lyles called 911 to report a burglary. Seattle Police officers had been to her apartment two weeks earlier and knew she was in a mental health crisis. Jason Anderson and Steven McNew were the responding officers and neither had less-lethal options with them. Officer Anderson had stopped carrying his department-provided taser a few days earlier and McNew was not certified to carry one.
Officers enter the apartment, and despite knowing that Lyles was having mental health issues, did not ask her to put away some knives that were on the kitchen counter. During the interaction, the inquest determined that Lyles had grabbed one of the knives and would not comply with the officers’ orders. The inquest found that Lyles threatened Anderson and McNew with deadly force, leaving them no other option due to the tight quarters of the apartment, and not carrying less-lethal weapons. They fired their service weapons seven times, striking Lyles, who was pregnant, multiple times. Lyles died at the scene and her death was witnessed by two of her four children.
In 2018, Office Anderson was suspended for two days after a Seattle Office of Police Accountability investigation determined he had violated department policy but not having his taser. The OPA finds determined that the incident may have turned out differently if Anderson had a less-lethal option available.
Lyles’s family filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Seattle in 2020. The lawsuit was dismissed, but reinstated on appeal in 2021. The case was set to go to trial in February, but the family and the City of Seattle reached a $3.5 million settlement in November 2021.
King County Prosecutor Dan Sattenberg said that his office would review the evidence presented during the inquest and make a final determination on whether criminal charges will be filed. Because the pre-2019 standard of proving “malice” or “evil intent” is a requirement to secure a conviction, it is unlikely criminal charges will move forward.
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