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Lawsuit over 2017 police killing of Charleena Lyles can go forward

Tonya Isabell speaks June 18, 2020, during a vigil for her cousin Charleena Lyles, pictured at right.
Ted S. Warren
/
The Associated Press
Tonya Isabell speaks June 18, 2020, during a vigil for her cousin Charleena Lyles, pictured at right.

The Washington State Court of Appeals says a lawsuit filed by the family of a Seattle woman shot to death by police can go forward. On June 18, 2017, Charleena Lyles was killed in her home by two police officers who said she had lunged at them with a knife.

Lyles had called 911 to report a burglary. Seattle Police said that when they arrived they spoke with her briefly about the theft before she began yelling. The officers said she came at them with a knife, something the court notes has not been disputed.

 

When one officer asked the other to use his stun gun, the other officer said he didn’t have it with him. Police said, as Lyles advanced on them with a knife, they told her to get back. When she didn’t comply, they fired their weapons multiple times, killing her.

 

The wrongful death case against the officers and the City of Seattle was thrown out by a lower court. However, the appeals court said there are enough questions that the case deserves to go to trial -- questions about whether police followed proper procedures, whether they acted “reasonably” in using lethal force and what Lyles' mental state was.

 

The court points out that, while police do have qualified immunity in carrying out their duties, they also have a duty to act with reasonable care in a direct interaction like this one. 

 

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