Tonya Isabell (left) speaks June 18, 2020, during a vigil for her cousin Charleena Lyles (pictured at right) on the third anniversary of Lyles’ death, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Tonya Isabell (left) speaks June 18, 2020, during a vigil for her cousin Charleena Lyles (pictured at right) on the third anniversary of Lyles’ death, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Seattle to pay $3.5M to settle police wrongful-death suit

Police killed Charleena Lyles at her home in 2017, after she called 911 to report a burglary.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — The city of Seattle will pay $3.5 million to settle a wrongful-death civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the children of a pregnant Black woman who was fatally shot by two white Seattle police officers in 2017.

Karen Koehler, a Seattle attorney who represented Charleena Lyles’ estate, said at a news conference Tuesday that the case was scheduled for trial in King County Superior Court in February before the settlement was reached Monday, The Seattle Times reported.

“For the family and especially for the children, it’s a restoration of dignity,” Koehler said of the settlement reached after a 13½-hour mediation session.

Lyles’ four children, who are between the ages of 5 and 16, are being raised in California by Lyles’ aunt, Merry Kilpatrick, Koehler said.

Koehler said the settlement says to them that their mother “did nothing that should’ve led to her death … she should not have received seven bullets.”

Dan Nolte, a spokesman for Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, called Lyles’ shooting death an indisputable tragedy and said he’s glad the settlement agreement has brought some closure to the parties.

The Seattle Police Department, in a statement posted online, said it hopes that “this tragic case continues to serve to drive momentum towards comprehensive, holistic reform of all systems that meet at the intersection of public health and public safety.”

Seattle police officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew responded to Lyles’ apartment in Northeast Seattle on June 18, 2017, after Lyles called 911 to report a burglary.

Police said evidence at the scene pointed to the 30-year-old staging a burglary, and according to the officers, Lyles suddenly lunged at them with one or two knives before they fatally shot her in her kitchen with her children nearby.

Lyles’ death sparked protests and outrage, including allegations the shooting fit a pattern of institutionalized racial bias by police.

In the 18 months before she died, Lyles — a victim of domestic violence with documented mental-health issues — called Seattle police 23 times, and police said she had threatened officers with a pair of shears during a June 5, 2017, disturbance call before dropping them.

In its lawsuit, Lyles’ estate had argued that officers did not act reasonably because they failed to use nonlethal force to disarm or subdue her.

Anderson, who was certified to use a Taser and under Seattle police policy was required to carry it, was suspended for two days for failing to carry it on the day Lyles was killed.

Seattle police determined that their officers acted reasonably in shooting Lyles and that a Taser application would have been unlikely to subdue her.

In early 2019, a Superior Court judge dismissed the wrongful-death lawsuit, agreeing with Anderson and McNew that under Washington state law, it is a “complete defense” in any action for damages for personal injury or wrongful death if the person injured or killed was committing a felony at the time, and that the felony was a proximate cause of the injury or death.

But a state Court of Appeals three-judge panel overruled the trial judge in February 2021 after attorneys representing Lyles’ estate submitted opinions from three experts.

The first expert said the officers’ use of firearms was unreasonable and contrary to the Seattle Police Department’s de-escalation policies; the second said Lyles’ death could have been prevented had Anderson been carrying his Taser; and the third said Lyles was in a psychotic state and was therefore unable to form the intent to assault the officers.

The Lyles’ family said they will next turn their attention to an inquest into Lyles’ death. In July, King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an order allowing inquests, which are required for any death involving law enforcement, to resume after a three-year legal fight over changes meant to make the process fairer to families of those killed by police.

During Tuesday’s news conference, Katrina Johnson, who like other family members appeared by Zoom, said the family is forever traumatized by her cousin’s death but thanked the community for continuing “to lift up Charleena’s name” in social-justice protests for police reform.

Johnson and other family members said they would like to see the officers criminally prosecuted for the fatal shooting.

But Lyles’ death happened before lawmakers and voters passed Initiative 940 in 2018, which removed a longtime standard that required prosecutors to prove that officers acted with malice and a lack of good faith. That standard made made it almost impossible to prove negligence in fatal shootings by police officers.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Skiers make their way uphill under idle lift chairs at the Summit at Snoqualmie Ski Area as fresh snow falls, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Snoqualmie Pass, Wash. Several inches of snow fell Wednesday, and the area shown was scheduled to open to skiers and begin lift operation later in the day. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Snoqualmie ski resort cuts some operations after losing power

For Monday skiing, the resort’s website said they have “less than a partial supply of energy.”

FILE - In this April 15, 2019, file photo, a vendor makes change for a marijuana customer at a cannabis marketplace in Los Angeles. An unwelcome trend is emerging in California, as the nation's most populous state enters its fifth year of broad legal marijuana sales. Industry experts say a growing number of license holders are secretly operating in the illegal market — working both sides of the economy to make ends meet. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
In California pot market, a hazy line between legal and not

Industry insiders say the practice of working simultaneously in the legal and illicit markets is a financial reality.

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen at dusk in Washington on Oct. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Supreme Court to hear case of praying ex-football coach

The former Seattle-area coach was removed from his job because he wouldn’t stop praying on the field.

Joe Kent, candidate for U.S. Representative in Washington's 3rd Congressional District, leads a "Rally Against Forced Quarantine" outside a meeting of the Washington State Board of Health in Tumwater on Wednesday. (Joe Kent For Congress / Facebook)
No, Washington state isn’t forcing people into quarantine camps

The state’s health board debunked rumors from social media users, politicians and conservative pundits.

FILE - Bill Gates speaks during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum, London, Tuesday, Oct, 19, 2021. A small city in the top U.S. coal-mining state of Wyoming will be home to a Bill Gates-backed experimental nuclear power project near a coal-fired power plant that will soon close, officials announced Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Microsoft to review workplace harassment, including Bill Gates allegations

One engineer wrote in a letter that she had a sexual relationship with Gates over several years.

Dog rescued from collapsed house 6 days after landslide

The black Labrador named Sammy was alert and wagging her tail as Seattle firefighters pulled her from the rubble.

U.S. 2 at Stevens Pass reopened to traffic Thursday morning. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Finally, U.S. 2 at Stevens Pass reopens for travel

Heavy snow and avalanche risks closed the pass Jan. 6. Snoqualmie, Blewett and White passes were also open.

During a news conference Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee explains the deployment of the National Guard to hospitals to assist with the coronavirus surge. (TVW) 20220113
Surgeries paused, National Guard deployed to assist hospitals

Guard troops will help Providence in Everett, among other places, deal with a surge in virus patients and staffing shortages.

The Washington state Senate is seen on the first day of the 60-day legislative session on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022 in Olympia, Wash. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a limited number of lawmakers are allowed on the chamber floor, with much of the chamber's work being done in a hybrid remote fashion. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
State senate OKs bigger penalty for election worker harassment

Violations potentially could result in a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Brock Hoenes
Washington state wildlife manager accused of poaching

He allegedly illegally killed an animal in Ferry County, then reported the incident, calling it a “mistake.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gives his annual State of the State address, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Due to cautions against COVID-19, Inslee gave his speech in the State Reception Room and it was shown by streaming video to lawmakers meeting remotely. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Gov. Inslee calls on lawmakers for ‘big’ and ‘bold’ action

The governor focused on the pandemic’s impact on kids, the climate, and homelessness.

Kaleb Cole in 2018. (ProPublica)
Neo-Nazi with Arlington ties gets federal prison time

Kaleb Cole, 26, was sentenced to seven years for leading a campaign to threaten journalists and Jewish activists.