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Families from across the nation stand with Charleena Lyles' family, demanding justice

Katrina Johnson, cousin to the late Charleena Lyles, spoke at a rally on June 18, 2020, the three-year anniversary of Lyles' death.
Parker Miles Blohm
Katrina Johnson, cousin to the late Charleena Lyles, talks about her cousin's death three years ago and demands justice and accountability on her behalf and on behalf of other families touched by police violence.

Katrina Johnson stood alongside a score of families Thursday morning, demanding justice for a long list of Black men and women whose lives were taken by police officers, both here and across the country.

“We will never forget. I have not been able to move on and our family wants justice,” Johnson said, during an event that featured local and national speakers representing 19 families devastated by police killings.

It’s been three years since Johnson’s cousin, Charleena Lyles, was fatally shot by two Seattle police officers, after she called to report an attempted burglary. The 30-year-old woman was killed at her Magnuson Park apartment. Her four children were inside. She was several months pregnant.

The officers, who are white, said Lyles, a Black woman, had a knife when they shot her seven times with their duty weapons.

The family is awaiting an inquest, which will determine whether the actions of the officers complied with Seattle Police Department policy and training.

The 2017 shooting sparked outrage from Seattle residents — outrage that’s seen a renewed push amid protests for racial justice and police accountability, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Johnson was joined by family members from around the region who had their own stories of loved ones they say were unjustly killed by police. Among them was Alexis Dunlap, mother of Mi'Chance Dunlap-Gittens, a 17-year-old boy who was gunned down by a King County sheriff’s deputy in what The Seattle Times called a “hastily arranged sting operation” as part of a homicide investigation. The department later discovered that neither the teen, nor the boy they mistook him for, had anything to do with the crime it was investigating, according to the newspaper.

The women also were joined by families linked to police killings in Kent, Auburn, Tacoma and as far south as Thurston County.

Johnson, Lyles’ cousin, said her family continues to demand the demilitarization of police departments — something activists across the region and country have called for during recent protests. And they are calling for Mayor Jenny Durkan to resign, for failing to follow through on promises of accountability measures for Seattle police.

“And not only do we want justice for Charleena, we want justice for the other families in Washington state who have also not received any justice for their loved ones, as well,” Johnson said.

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.