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'Pleas for help ... answered with bullets:' Charleena Lyles' family files claim

Charleena Lyles

SEATTLE -- The family of Charleena Lyles, who was shot to death by Seattle police in her own apartment, has taken the first step to sue the city by filing a claim.

"Charleena Lyles was a human being," Karen Koehler, one of the attorneys filing the claim told reporters at a news conference. "She wasn't treated like one by the city of Seattle. I find that appalling."

Another of her attorneys, R. Travis Jameson, said the fatal shooting cut short the redemption story of Lyles, who was suffering from mental illness but was reaching out for help.

Lawyers say says the family filed claim forms against the city on Friday morning and intend it to be the first step in a civil rights wrongful death lawsuit against the Seattle Police Department.

The Police Department and Seattle City Attorney's Office declined to comment.

Lyles was shot to death June 18 after she called police to her home after she reported a burglary.

Police say she threatened officers with knives when they came to her apartment, and they opened fire.

Jameson said he could not discuss the actions of the individual officers when asked whether they followed departmental policy.

"What we do know is that Charleena Lyles' pleas for help were answered with bullets," Jameson said.

Lyles was the mother of four children and was pregnant at the time of her death.

Her father, Charles, told reporters that the children are the focus of the legal action. They are spread out and not living together,

"Now her kids can't see each other. It's sad," Charles Lyles said.

Lyles said he has been "real empty" since his daughter's death.

"I cry a lot. Sometimes I wake up at night. I can't eat."

Koehler said Charleena Lyles had mental health issues, and police knew it.

From January through June, police had been called to her apartment 23 times.

On June 5, 2017, police were called to her house, and she armed herself with shears, the claim says. She made comments about wanting to "morph into a wolf" and thought police were devils and members of the KKK.

But Koehler said the two police officers who visited her apartment on the day she died apparently had no plan to deal with her.

"One of the problems here is that the police should have de-escalated the situation going in knowing she had mental health issues. There were severe mental health issues."

The city now has 60 days to deal with the claim. It could be settled.

If not, a lawsuit will likely be filed.


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