Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hundreds Gather To Remember Charleena Lyles And Demand Answers About Her Death

A vigil for Charleena Lyles turned into a rallying cry for family members, neighbors, and hundreds of other residents who demanded answers about her death.

Mourners crowded a square outside Lyles's apartment complex Tuesday evening, two days after she was shot in her apartment by two Seattle Police officers. Lyles was black and the two officers are white. 

"I just want to grieve right now," said Lyles's younger sister, Tiffany Rogers. "I can't even do that because I'm so angry. I'm scared of our so-called protectors. I was before, but I definitely am now."

Police said Lyles was holding a knife and an audio recording captured her saying "You ready?" and calling the officers an expletive.  

But members of her family say the 30-year-old mother of four was pregnant and weighed less than 100 pounds, and question why the officers couldn't have disarmed or subdued her without lethal force. 

"If this itty bitty person has to go through this, who's next?" said Lyles's older siser, Monika Williams.

"You guys are making the children fearful of their protectors," she added, referring to police. "I'm at home struggling with my son to teach him to put his trust in the police and yet here they've murdered his auntie." 

Raw emotion was on display. Mourners periodically broke out into chants: "Say her name! Charleena Lyles!" 

People at the vigil said the shooting raised questions not only about institutional racism but about how police officers handle people with mental illness.

Lyles's family said she struggled with mental health issues and asked why the officers weren't carrying Tasers. 

James Bible, an attorney for the family, questioned whether the officers were truly in imminent danger or if they could have retreated from the apartment.

Seattle Police say they are investigating the shooting. 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.