Lawyers representing Charleena Lyles’ father filed a claim against the City of Seattle today, the first step toward a lawsuit over her death at the hands of Seattle Police.
Two white Seattle Police officers shot and killed Lyles, a pregnant black mother of four, on June 18 after Lyles called police to report a burglary at her Sand Point apartment. When the officers arrived at her apartment, police say she threatened them with a knife and the officers shot her. Lyles' family has questioned why police didn't use non-deadly force like a Taser. (Neither officer who shot her carried one.) An investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
In the claim filed with the city today, three lawyers representing Lyles’ father argue Lyles’ death violated her and her children’s civil rights. They call her death “unnecessary, horrifying, and preventable.”
The claim seeks an unspecified amount of damages for “civil rights violation, wrongful death, pain and suffering, fear of impending death, burial and funeral expenses, loss of earning potential, and the loss of love, affection, care, service, companionship, society, training and consortium she would have provided to her children.”
The claim gives the city 60 days to settle with the family before the family can file a lawsuit. Lyles’ father, Charles Lyles, is now the representative of Charleena Lyles’ estate. Lawyers said any settlement in the case would go to her children.
If a lawsuit is later filed, it would argue that officers violated Charleena Lyles’ civil rights and her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, three lawyers representing Charles Lyles told reporters today.
“Because of the mental health issues, should there have been a different response to the situation that the officers found themselves faced with other than what resulted—this very unfortunate shooting?” said attorney Edward Moore.
Lyles had received some mental health treatment, but her
“Where is the discussion of the plan?” Koehler said, referencing audio recordings of a conversation between the two officers before they entered Lyles’ apartment. “Where’s the discussion of the deescalation? Where’s the discussion of, ‘Oh she may have lot of kids in there. How are we going to protect their safety if something goes wrong?’ Where is that discussion before they went into that unit?”
Charles Lyles said today his priority was to reunite his grandchildren, who are separated staying with different family members. His lawyers said this claim could not directly achieve that.
“I’ve been real empty inside,” Charles Lyles said today. “I’m just so hurt that she had to die the way she did and now her kids don’t see each other. It’s just sad.”
The shooting has renewed calls for police reform and improved de-escalation in Seattle. Several days after the shooting, hundreds gathered for a rally and march in Lyles' honor. Asked whether the claim is intended to achieve any specific reforms within the SPD, Koehler said the claim “is not for police reform, although we know from just history, you can protest all you want but until it affects the government in very personal, financial way, often you will not see reform.”
Other members of the Lyles family are represented by other attorneys. Attorney James Bible represents the grandmother of two of Lyles' children, who has temporary guardianship of those children. Another attorney, Corey Guilmette, represents two sisters and two cousins of Lyles. One of Guilmette's clients has guardianship of Lyles' other two children. I'm a joint statement, Bible and Guilmette said they were "disappointed" that Charles Lyles did not contact them about the claim. "We are seeking to operate in the best interest of four children who tragically lost their mother," the statement said. "As attorneys for the two individuals who have guardianship of Charleena's four children, we hope that Mr. Lyles's counsel contacts us in the future so we can work together to best represent the children's interest."
The city’s Office of Finance and Administrative Services, which handles claims against the city, declined to comment.
This story has been updated with new information.