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Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Against Seattle Officers Accused in Charleena Lyles Killing

A Washington state judge has dismissed a wrongful death suit against two Seattle police officers accused of fatally shooting pregnant woman Charleena Lyles in 2017.

The lawsuit, filed by Lyles’ family in August of that year, not only accused officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew of wrongful death, but of civil rights violations in the June 2017 shooting, KOMO News reported.

Charleena Lyles

Charleena Lyles’ family accused officers of violating her civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeing as Lyles was struggling with mental illness. (Image courtesy of KOMO)

King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector threw out the complaint, however, after lawyers for the officers argued that Lyles lured police to her apartment by falsely reporting a burglary, and then charged at them with a knife. The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled but may be appealed to a higher court.

The family’s lawsuit against the city still stands, however.

Lyles, a 30-year-old mother of four, was gunned down in her Northeast Seattle apartment on June 18, 2017, after calling to report a burglary. That’s when officers said she suddenly attacked them with one or two knives. She was shot seven times and pronounced dead at the scene.

The officers’ attorneys argued that Lyles refused to comply with commands to stand down, forcing officers to fire their weapons. A Seattle police review board later determined the shooting was justified.

“Ms. Lyles’ death is a direct result of her commission of felonies, and failure to follow the clear verbal commands of Officers Anderson and McNew to ‘get back,'” attorneys wrote in the court filings.

Outrage erupted in the wake of the shooting and prompted questions of why the officers didn’t use nonlethal force on Lyles, who weighed less than 100 pounds at the time. Citing transcripts from interviews with the two officers, the Seattle Times reported that during the encounter McNew called for his partner to use a stun gun on the unruly woman but Anderson, who had left it in his locker, responded that he didn’t have it. Seconds later, they both shot her.

There were also claims the shooting was racially motivated, seeing as Lyles was Black and the officers were white. In their lawsuit, Lyles’ family argued that officers ignored the fact that Lyles’ was struggling with “a significant mental illness condition” and said she “lacked the mental capacity” to commit a felony.

“Charleena Lyles was a human being,” Karen Koehler, the attorney representing the Lyles family told reporters in 2017. “She wasn’t treated like one by the city of Seattle. I find that appalling.”

Koehler decried the judge’s Jan. 4 ruling, saying it was “wrong” and that they plan to appeal.

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