SPD Shooting of Mother Sparks Loss for SPS Communities

I was away this weekend and so am just coming to learning about the terrible shooting of a black pregnant mother of three, Charleena Lyles, at transitional housing for people coming out of homelessness.  Her children - two in Seattle schools - may have been present at the shooting.

I heard the audio tape of the incident and it's hard to grasp how quickly the police apparently felt threatened by what is to be a small woman with mental health issues.  And especially since the police knew she had mental health issues.  I'm sure I am not alone in believing that had Ms Lyles been white, she would be alive today.

SEA will have a rally at 5 pm followed by a press conference/vigil tonight at 6 pm at Brettler (the re-settlement site at Magnuson).  Teachers are being encouraged to wear their Black Lives Matter t-shirts today.

But to the point of affecting Seattle Schools communities comes this from Director Geary via Facebook:

I have visited Thornton Creek, Sand Point and Laurelhurst this morning and have heard families want to help, so let's come up with a plan for long term support. Soup for Teachers will also be posting on things that can be done.

SPS Communications via Twitter:
Our thoughts are with the Brettler Family Place community. SPS provided more staff to support those needing help to make sense of tragedy.

From Soup for Teachers:

We have gotten plenty of schools signed on for care pack items. If there's not a point person coordinating at your school who has the drop-off address, please do not collect these items - we are good. Please do not take these items to Brettler. 

Charleena's children are with family and not at Brettler now. There will be another request very soon to go directly to support the kids, who Sand Point staff have new information from. There is also a scholarship fund for the kids being set up for longer-term support. 

Sand Point PTA provides weekend food packs for over 25% of SPE students every week during the school year through the University Food Bank, so that is a great provider to donate to. Many families living in Magnuson Park attend nearby schools, so helping fund services and families within the community-at-large is essential. Solid Ground is another option for donation. 

The focus here is in supporting the SPE community as they support families at Brettler and Charleena's children, whom they know and love, based on what they are asking for. There are other groups with funding accounts, clothes, etc which is great but are separate efforts, coordinated through other groups and family members.

Thank you SO much for your immediate willingness to step up and support these members of our community. There will be more opportunities to help.
I have a request from the Sand Point parent community that we can help with, particularly NE Seattle schools near Magnuson.

Sand Point Elementary PTA is requesting support to create small care packages for our families who are residents of Solid Ground Housing (Brettler) in Magnuson park whose lives are deeply impacted by the killing of one of our parents Charleena Lyle. We are asking support in creating 230 care packages that include:

1) Notes of support for adults and children
2) Grocery gift cards for parents in $10 denominations from Safeway
3) Bottles or packets of bubble bath for children
4) Packets of microwave popcorn
5) Bottles of bubbles or other happy non-age specific item for children. (stickers?)
6) fruit rollups/fruit snacks

If your school community can provide any of these items, plus gift bags and ribbon to put them all in, please let me know! It would be easiest for me if one person could contact me from a school parent group and I will send more details by email. Items would need to be delivered to my home in NE Seattle by Wednesday morning, and we'll also need a couple of people willing to stay and help create the packages. I'll take them to Chandra Hampson to distribute to families. Already I have folks from Wedgwood, Bryant, Decatur, Cascadia, and Thornton Creek. Please take a second to coordinate with folks at your school and then have one person send me an email address! *THANK YOU* These are all our kids.


Carol Simmons said…
Thank you for this post and all you are doing to support this tragedy.
Carol Simmons said…
My post does not read correctly, but I am certain you were able to understand my message. Thank you for posting about this tragedy and the support we can give to the family, students, schools and the greater Seattle Community.
Anonymous said…
Very sad situation. I also question why the police could have not tased her or not used lethal force if she was coming at them with a knife. They had her history as she had an encounter with police the week prior.

I don't agree however that "if she would have been white" this may not have happened. A poor white woman in the same circumstance may have also been shot.
Unfortunately, there are many people of all races shot by police, including whites, asians, latino's.

However, keep in mind that black people are disproportionately shot as well as disproportionately poor and affected by all that goes along with it.

1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/06/an-unarmed-white-teen-was-shot-dead-by-police-his-family-asks-where-is-the-outrage/?utm_term=.fcdfd0631c8e
2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/07/13/why-a-massive-new-study-on-police-shootings-of-whites-and-blacks-is-so-controversial/?utm_term=.b94cce4fd571
3. http://time.com/4404987/police-violence/

Sad said…
Please see latest post by Sand Point PTA for best ways to provide support and help: https://www.facebook.com/sandpointelementary/posts/1580565321987589
Jet City mom said…
Ms. Lyles was the mother of four young children, one who has Down's syndrome, so why was she not getting respite care?
Does Solid Ground not have the support services they say they do?
No wonder she was stressed.

Anonymous said…
@ J, the officers didn't have tasers on them, that's why they couldn't tase her instead. Shouldn't they always take their tasers, especially when they go on calls with people known to have mental health issues? It's mind boggling.

I also don't understand why officers always shoot to kill. Why so many shots, and why not aim for the leg or arm or something? If you mush shoot, why not shoot to slow them down or incapacitate them instead of aiming to kill? Sure, it's probably harder to hit a leg or an arm or a hand with a knife, but if you're pumping out multiple shots I'm sure you can manage...

why lethal?
Lynn said…
It sounds like she was more than stressed. From her June 5th encounter with the police:

I was advised she had armed herself with a pair of long shears and was refusing to put them down. I learned later that at one point prior to my arrival the female had stood up with the scissors in her hand and told the officers, "Ain't none of y'all leaving here today!" Both Officers Bauer and Legg told me they felt fearful for their safety and believed the statement was threatening in nature.
Additional patrol units includinq Sgts. Borjeson and Barker responded to assist and oversee the call. The female complainant was later identified as Charleena Lyles. I attempted to engage Lyles in dialogue and compel her to drop the scissors. Officer Bauer at this time was still in the living room and unable to leave without getting dangerously close to Lyles. Lyles was making several unusual comments such as wanting to "morph into a wolf" and was talking about "cloning her dauqhter." She also made several unusual religious comments talking about how the police officers were devils and also members of the KKK.

I don't think we are informed enough to know what type of non-lethal force would effectively protect an officer from a stabbing in a small enclosed area. It is very clear that she paid the price for our disinterest in providing mental health support in this state.
Anonymous said…
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Jet City mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
If you believe a white women would not have been shot then I invite you to go out and test your claim!. In order to be fair you must create the same circumstances.

Some people
Anonymous said…
Thank you for this post
Anonymous said…
Geary has no credibility with the SPED community so now she's desperately looking to the minority community to salvage her career. Or as she calls them "the poor people".

Good Luck
Police Training said…
"Even in the more progressive corners of policing, training dictates officers draw their handguns whenever confronted with a deadly weapon. That includes knives.
“We have to go one step higher,” Deputy Joe Winters, a crisis intervention trainer at the Washington State police academy, told Crosscut in 2015. “If the perpetrator has a stick, we use a taser; if [he or she] has a knife, we use a gun.”

Jet City mom said…
More background info.


Its unfortunate that it appears she abruptly stopped medication.
Susdenly stopping medication needed for mental health can cause a rebound effect with distressing consequences.
Anonymous said…
Jill Geary obviously has political ambitions. But when she ran for the appointment in the 46th, she embarrassed herself. She not only lost, but from what I heard she only got a tiny handful of votes and came in last. That should be a warning sign to her that her haughty, "I know better than you racist idiots" approach to serving on the school board has already sparked a backlash.

NE Dad
Heartbreaking said…
Lyles should not have been caring for children that day. If she hadn't been, her children might still have their mother. How many SPS students have parents who shouldn't be caring for them today? She was not competent to make the decision to parent on that day. Someone else needed to make it for her. Where were we? Who was supposed to make that decision?

A lot of drugs prescribed to patients for mental health conditions have HORRENDOUS side effects. In addition, certain mental illnesses can make it very hard to take medications on a routine schedule. When someone is hallucinating they cannot be responsible for caring for children. This was a failure of the system.

The fact that she had a place to live right there by a beautiful park next to easy transit access with a good school in walking distance from her apartment, that is a success of the system.

The whole thing is
Anonymous said…
"This was a failure of the system."

Yes, will attention to her death help change how people view all (regardless of race) who mentally ill who are homeless? I am hoping people will advocate for change.

There are so many poor, homeless white people in this camp, many are also drug addicted all around the country. We have an opioid epidemic affecting many poor communities, many white. Being mentally ill and homelessness is a huge issue.

I have read multiple stories over the years about mentally ill people-many white as well as homeless-dying in encounters with police. There is zero outrage by the public. Many of these people on the street have no family to advocate for change if they die. People dismiss them as if their lives do not matter.

Maybe this black women's death and the failure of our mental health system to help her move us toward a better outcome?
Anonymous said…
Where was the father? I noticed he was quick to blame everyone but himself during his PR rant. My GOD why was she having another child? Did she stop taking her meds because she was pregnant?

Please don't turn NE Seattle into a neo cabrini greens.


Anonymous said…
Former police chief David Brown who is black, on poverty & mental illness. Lost his brother & son. His son ended up being shot and killed by police.

"You write that we'll never make progress until we pose more thoughtful questions than "are white cops unfairly targeting and killing black citizens." What are the better questions?"


BM, do you realize that this -
"Please don't turn NE Seattle into a neo cabrini greens."

is just the kind of thing that really makes people think the worst about who lives in that area (including me)? It's not all about you. These people are citizens as well.

All people who are poor are not problems. There are many reasons to be homeless and poor, many of them not directly in someone's control. As to her reasons for having children, that's something we will never know. It tends to be none of anyone's business why/when people have children.

About the mental health system, you'll be glad to know that both candidates running for King County Sheriff - current sheriff John Urquhart and Mitzi Johanknecht - said they want to do more to address mental health issues that are one source of incidents for their offices. As well, many mayoral candidates talked about this (I was at the 43rd Dems endorsement meeting last night).

It would be great if the Legislature might put money towards this but they seem to be too busy pointing fingers and trying to not raise taxes.
david zaitzeff said…

I am not sure if it helps you, but the evidence suggests to me that the death of Charleena Lyles was, while sad and in the view of some tragic, suicide by cop.

The video footage of her hallways shows that no one other than her had entered the area to steal items, despite her claim that someone had done so after finding the door unlocked.

She was stressed; she was allegedly depressed; she was allegedly getting off of taking meth, which allegedly contributes to severe depression in some people. She picked up and held two knives at a close distance to cops, while threatening them and apparently approaching them.

There are or seem to be dozens of African Americans whose families have won large settlements in cases of either foolish assault or some sort of suicide by cop. We can say that life is hard and for many people it is hard. No problem. Life is hard.

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