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Why review board found Charleena Lyles shooting justified

A photo of Charleena Lyles stands in memorial.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
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A photo of Charleena Lyles in a memorial.

An attorney for the family of Charleena Lyles says a police review board’s finding that Seattle officers acted within department policy when they shot her last June is inadequate.

The board’s decision was revealed last month, but a newly released report lays out the thinking behind it.

The report says the two officers acted appropriately in investigating Lyles’ report of a burglary at her apartment at the Solid Ground housing at Magnuson Park.

The officers say Lyles suddenly turned on them and tried to stab them with a knife, and the review board found that they reacted with appropriate use of force.

One officer had failed to carry a Taser as mandated by police policy, but the review board said the encounter happened so quickly and in such a close space that a Taser could not have been relied on.

The report contains suggestions about Taser policy, along with recommendations surrounding the investigation that followed the shooting.

But that’s not enough for attorney Corey Guilmette. He said systemic changes are needed.

“To suggest that the killing was within policy and training and to simultaneously fail to suggest any improvements to policy and training that this shooting highlights is essentially saying that the events that led to Charleena’s death could happen tomorrow,” Guilmette said.

“And there’s no plan underway to make that event less likely. And I know that’s something the family rejects.” 

The Lyles family has filed a civil lawsuit against the department. 

A formal inquest is scheduled for April. The report was released Friday.

“I think this shooting highlights failings within the Seattle Police Department that extend even beyond what was considered in the force review board,” Guilmette said. “Whether Charleena was adequately provided services when she was a victim of domestic violence and how that factored into her relationship with the police.”

In its conclusion, the review board report calls the SPD “just one link in a long and often disconnected chain” of services. It says improvements are needed all along the way.