Video shows

Charleena Lyles’ family attorney disputes officer’s recollection; video shows him backing down the hallway when shots were fired

The attorney for the family of Charleena Lyles on Friday challenged the recollection of one of the Seattle police officers who said he had his back against a closed door when he shot her, confronting him with surveillance video that showed him backing through an open door into a hallway as gunshots rang out.

Officer Jason Anderson, during sworn testimony before a coroner’s inquest jury on Friday and in a statement to investigators two days after Lyles’ 2017 death, recalled that the front door of the apartment was closed when he jumped back as Lyles lunged at him with a knife, missing his belly by inches.

Using a 3D model of a Glock handgun and standing in a plywood and cardboard mockup of the entrance to Lyles’ small apartment – with family attorney Karen Koehler in Lyles’ place – Anderson reiterated his recollection that his back was against a closed door with Lyles, who had a small knife, just yards away when he opened fire.

However, surveillance video of the building, synchronized with audio from Anderson’s police car dashcam, showed the officer backing down the hallway, his feet and legs visible as the volley shots could be heard. Koehler released the video for the officer and the six-member jury twice on Friday.

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“Do you agree that you were outside the flat when you shot Mrs. Lyles?” she asked.

“My feet were outside the apartment. That’s what the video seems to show,” Anderson said. “My memory was that I was inside the apartment.”

The issue is significant because Seattle Police Department Policy and Procedure witnesses testified that the department requires officers, whenever possible, to defuse volatile circumstances, and one of the key methods is to create a distance between the agent and a threat. Anderson and his partner, Officer Steven McNew, said they opened fire on Lyles because they had no choice in the tight confines of his small, cluttered two-bedroom apartment.

Friday also saw dramatic and harrowing testimony from McNew, a 14-year-old SPD veteran who was the other officer who shot Lyles. McNew, a certified crisis worker, cared after the shooting of three of Lyles’ children, who were in the apartment when their mother was killed.

In King County, an inquest jury must be convened for every death caused by law enforcement. The process is a public inquiry to explore the facts, whether the police followed proper procedures and whether ‘criminality’ was involved.

McNew is the 18th and final witness in this investigation. Interrogations will continue on Tuesday, when the jury will be asked to provide answers to approximately 85 questions examining the details of Lyles’ death, whether the officers involved followed department procedures and policy and whether his death involved criminal means. .

The SPD exonerated the officers of wrongdoing. Both remain in the department.

When questioned, McNew argued with Koehler about whether he knew or should have known that Lyles might have a mental illness or was in a crisis, and approached her differently that day. He acknowledged that there was information about Lyles’ mental health history in reports that officers could have accessed that morning, but they did not.

McNew offered heartbreaking testimony about how one of Lyles’ sons got out of a bedroom after the gunshots. He said he asked the boy to “please come back”.

“Why?” asked inquest attorney Claire Thornton.

“Because we had just shot his mother and he knew what had happened,” McNew said. When he looked back, his youngest son had crawled over his mother’s body. “I remember being horrified,” he said. He took the child to Lyles “and told him everything would be fine”.

He said he shot Lyles because she turned her attention to him from Anderson and was moving around an island between the living room and the kitchen, where he was. “She would have unlimited access to me,” he said.

Anderson, responding to questions from his attorney, Ted Buck, said he fired when Lyles turned his attention to McNew, who was nearby in the apartment’s kitchen with nowhere to go. He said he waited until the last possible moment to fire, fearing Lyles’ children were in his line of fire, and said Lyles was potentially moving into a position where no officer could fire without touching.

Lyles, 30, a pregnant mother of four, had reported a burglary on the morning of June 18, 2017, and Anderson responded, expecting it to be a “paper call,” a call from low level usually involving a single officer interviewing the victim. and file a report.

However, Anderson found a report that showed Lyles assaulted SPD officers during a domestic violence call 13 days earlier, suddenly pulling out a large pair of shears and making “absurd” statements about turning into a wolf and talking about cloning his daughter. An “officer safety notice” filed with the report led Anderson to call a second officer, McNew.

The two officers entered her apartment and the initial interaction was cordial, Anderson testified, but within minutes of the call, Lyles’ demeanor suddenly changed, and she pulled a small knife from her pocket and walked over. is thrown at Anderson.

On the audio, the two officers can be heard shouting “come back!” come back!” and McNew asked for a stun gun, but Anderson said he didn’t have one. Anderson, who was supposed to carry the less lethal tool while on duty, was later disciplined for leaving it in his locker because its battery was dead.Both officers insisted that the use of a stun gun under these circumstances would not have been tactically appropriate.

When asked by Koehler, McNew insisted he called the stun gun “even though I knew it was inappropriate…because I didn’t want to have to shoot Ms. Lyles.”

“I screamed it in desperation,” he said.

The officers shot Lyles seven times.

Koehler asked the two officers why they never ordered Lyles to drop the knife or warn that she would be shot in the 19 seconds between when Anderson said she pulled the knife and the shots were fired. had been fired. SPD policy officials testified that the department requires warning before deadly force is used whenever possible.

Koehler also represented the family in a civil lawsuit against the department, which was settled last year for $3.5 million.