The Charleena Lyles Shooting: A Different Kind Of Reform

Is last week’s shooting incident of Charleena Lyles another case of police racism or simply another baseless attack on law enforcement.

While the shooting of Lyles, an African American, has drawn condemnation from her family and sparked public outcry from others, it’s hard to understand from the statements how anyone could buy that race was a factor in the shooting.

Seattle police Officer Jason Anderson told investigators Charleena Lyles suddenly pulled a knife out of her pocket and was “coming right at my stomach” during a burglary call Sunday that led to the fatal shooting of the 30-year-old mother of four in her apartment, according to statements released Friday evening.

According to the Seattle Times, Officer Anderson said he jumped back and sucked in his abdomen to avoid getting stabbed in the stomach with a knife 4 to 5 inches long.

Anderson, 32, who joined the department in 2015, said he drew his pistol, asked for fast backup on his radio and, along with McNew, told Lyles to “get back.”

He said McNew, 34, a Seattle officer since 2008, asked him to Taser Lyles. Anderson said he told McNew he didn’t have a Taser.

Lyles then began quickly advancing on McNew, Anderson said, describing himself as in “fear that she was gonna try and kill my partner um ’cause she was going after him.”

As Lyles turned a corner to go after McNew, Anderson said, he fired from 4 to 5 feet away and saw Lyles fall to the ground.

lylesAnderson said he wasn’t carrying a Taser because the battery in his died two weeks earlier, but he told investigators he wouldn’t have used it anyway because he was trained to use lethal force when someone is attacking with a knife.

This case is just another example of the impossible job that police officers are given.  In this case, a woman comes within inches of stabbing a police officer and continues her quest to do so and when lethal force is used, race is brought into the equation along with the typical “why didn’t use the Taser” demand.

Society has a problem and the police are the least of those problems.  From the mental health issues to high crime, violence and those that bring race along with every incident, one has to ask this question.

When will reform come from those that need to reform?  When will kids be told to comply.  When will communities place blame on the criminals and when will those that always place blame on the police look at the real issues of fatherless homes, violent criminals and racists within their own community?

There has been tremendous reform with law enforcement.  Today there is more training, more education and more de-escalation than ever before.  The time has come for additional reform and that reform has to be other than law enforcement.

Black Lives Matter has once again embraced this incident as racism but if they truly cared about Black Lives, they would look much deeper than the police.  It is time for real and meaningful reform and to continually say that has to come from the police will never stop what happened in Seattle last week.

When will our society wake up to this real fact?

Facebook Comments




  1. ahaz

    Impossible Job? Really? Frankly, I’m tired of the argument especially when involving edge weapons, sticks, rocks and other than firearm incidents. I’ve said it before, your UK and European counterparts don’t seem to have a problem subduing persons like Ms. Lyles. It’s a simple matter of training and tactics, each of which US officers seems to be lacking. In fact, only 9 UK officer have lost their lives in a felonious manner since 1990, despite the fact that edged weapons are the most common threat they face. Additionally, its the mindset that we have allowed our officers to develop where no risk is the only risk that is acceptable, despite the fact being a police officer does have inherent risks. That statement doesn’t mean officers should willing or recklessly put themselves in danger, but the overall willingness and speed to deploy a firearm and use it is frightening, particularly against minorities. While I agree there is a racial component to use of force deployment, is largely a matter of the training our officers receive that drives them to unholster and use their weapons unnecessarily. Fortunately, movements and groups like BLM, the ACLU and others are keeping the issue in the press and pressure on LE organizations to modify use of force policy. Reckless and negligent deployment of force, particularly deadly force, should be discouraged and punished. Fortunately, citizen cameras have become the equalizer and now we are seeing officers fired for poor judgement and indicted in negligent cases in ever increasing numbers because the public demands it. As the indictments continue, and convictions are eventually realized, the LE profession will have no choice but to change and adopt more of the policy adopted by the PERF and other professional organizations.

    • CJ Klekar

      I call BS on your assertions. When was the last time you faced an edged weapon?

    • ELC

      Ahaz, you keep talking about European countries. Are these the same countries where Muslims hacked several officers to death because they were not armed? I’m an officer highly trained in martial arts and I’m going to tell you they acted well within their rights. As the article implies citizens need to start acting better. As a black officer I’m tired of the race card constantly being played. You come at me with a weapon no matter what color you are going down. And ahaz look up statistics on black crime.

      • ahaz

        I’m not familiar with the incident you’re referring, but conflating terrorism with ordinary policing, especially in this country is an attempt at deflection from the issues at hand. The fact that our police officer shoot first without knowing all the facts. Just recently, an Asian man was killed by police because he had an ink pen in his hand! Let me repeat that…an ink pen! Let me name some other ways citizens have need needlessly killed because officers acted out of fear and too quickly. A man was killed because he was carrying brake pads, another was killed because he had thrown rocks, another was killed because he had a water nozzle in his had, another for having a cell phone in his hand. Hell, people have been killed for not having anything in their hands. All of these scenarios are true and occurred because officer acted without information, acted too fast and acted out of irrational fear. It’s simply a result of poor training, militarization and finally the causal disregard toward the lives of others. The overwhelming majority of U.K. Officers are unarmed, they face tens of thousands on edged weapon incidents per year, and only 9 officers were feloniously killed and a relative handful of citizens. You keep saying police have the right to defend themselves with deadly force. Police don’t have the right. You have been given authority to use deadly force when it’s necessary. Unfortunately, the public and especially the Courts have given police far too much latitude to use that authority. Your counterparts prove on a daily basis that the amount of deaths that occur during policing can be minimized on both sides. Civilians don’t have to “act better” to avoid being killed, officers need to do their job better.

        • ELC

          Read the papers. To tell you how law abiding citizens want access to firearms, I believe Brussels changed their law to allow that.

    • Katrina

      What knowledge and training do you have to make these ridiculous assertions? You are safe behind your keyboard Monday morning quarterbacking incidents you have no first hand knowledge of. It is a fact that police have more contact with people committing crimes than those not. The fact that more people committing crimes are black, makes it logical that there is more contact with those people. Trying to blame police and racism for that disparity is not only disengenious, but an outright lie.

      This is the USA, not the UK. Two different countries, just as apples and oranges are two different fruits. Every citizen in this country has the RIGHT to defend themselves from deadly force. EVERY one of us, including LE. What kind of brain would think police have less right to live than any other citizen?

      Are you aware that they are arming more UK police with GUNS– And are issuing more tazers? While you want us to follow the UK, they are following us! That alone should tell you something.

  2. LegalBeagle

    Seattle, like most of the parts of the US along the morass of stupid on I-5 from Blaine to San Diego, is so full of delusional moonbats that it is almost certainly beyond redemption. The positive feedback on the consent decree based on knowing fabrications of fact and misstatements of law by DOJ is just a sign. I have to deal with these loons far too often, and it is very frustrating.

    And for anyone crazy enough to think deadly force is not the first/best/only response to an attacker with a knife, I offer this link provided by my secretary:

    Cops DO successfully de-escalate a lot of potential lethal force situations every year – often to the detriment of their own safety, but the offender is the only person actually responsible for deescalation. American LE would be justified, legally and morally, in killing about 20 TIMES as many offenders every year as they do. The moonbat assertions of Balko, Weller (at PERF), Holder, Holmes, Bobb and the other apologists for the criminally feral, are simply not correct. As for a change in the statute, that’s clown shoes. Truly. The only prosecution in this state since I moved here in 1993 should never have happened; the officer shooting that dangerous offender in the Corvette was justified in law and ethics.

    Effective force is by definition ugly. That does not make it wrong. Go buy a copy of Urey W. Patrick and John C. Hall, “In Defense of Self and Others — issues, facts & fallacies: The realities of law enforcement’s use of deadly force”, (3rd edition, 2017), and read it. Repeatedly. Further, body cams are not a perfect answer; putting aside all of the collateral problems with retention and storage, they do not provide a full view of the situation, let alone all the other information coming in to officers from their other senses. A body cam’s view is very narrow and if one watches the resulting video, a large amount of it is worthless as a result.

    The real standards and analysis are as I said in another context:

    Sad, but a reflection of lots of things. The MH system everywhere in this country sucks. Terribly. MH advocates, along with those of us in the court system, have been howling about this for years to no avail. We need facilities for a lot of people, but not the medieval hellholes that resulted in the deinstitutionalization movement. Try being a cop (BTDT) who has to deal with these folks in the field. Try being a prosecutor stuck with trying to address some of them once in the system (BTDT). My friends in defense; the judiciary, and corrections all have the same experiences differing only by context. Most of these folks are just … pathetic, not dangerous. I’ve talked a few into cooperation, and had a fight a couple. Many simply cannot function in public, but note the lack of facilities. And they do not merely become offenders or at least social problems (and some part of that is because many people are wimps and can’t handle the different); they also become victims.

    That said, if they become dangerous, their mental health is only a tangential issue. Sad, but true. It took roughly 30 years for her to be this far out of contact, and the cops had 3 minutes or so with her, but it is their fault? FML.

    The law and the facts are as follows (from a response I wrote elsewhere; I’m actually qualified to write this, as I am a real lawyer, work and write in this area of the law and not now nor have I ever been an AAG or AUSA, the dregs of government law):

    Police officers get to control their professional encounters. This may mean among other options using our presence; threatening the use of force, or imposing physical control against the wishes of the subject. The law is clear, and has been this way for several decades. “The risk of harm to both the police and the occupants is minimized if the officers routinely exercise unquestioned command of the situation.” Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 702-703 (1981). This is true in any non-consensual encounter. Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 258 (2007)(citations omitted). The statutes of most if not all states have the same effect.
    Understand, also, that cops have a duty to take action. “Other than random attacks, all such cases begin with the decision of a police officer to do something, to help, to arrest, to inquire. If the officer had decided to do nothing, then no force would have been used. In this sense, the police officer always causes the trouble. But it is trouble which the police officer is sworn to cause, which society pays him to cause and which, if kept within constitutional limits, society praises the officer for causing.” Plakas v. Drinski, 19 F. 3d 1143, 1150 (7th Cir. 1994). Law Enforcement is not a people pleasing business; it is a coercive compliance business. The ugly nature of the lawful use of force is a fact, but “ugly” and “unreasonable” are not at all synonymous. The offender may be hurt because of his or her own actions, but any outrage must be directed at the offender, not the police officer who is fulfilling his or her duty.

    The actual standard for the use of force is simple, and a matter of constitutional law; analytically the use of force is a form of seizure under the 4th Amendment. The officer must be “reasonable” under the circumstances. Being factually correct is not the standard, nor would it be sound. (And this standard is based on and virtually identical to the standard for civilians acting in self-defense.) Whatever the offender is in any other portion of their life, and before the moments leading up to the use of force, is simply not relevant to the analysis unless a history of violence is known to the officer(s). There are occasional events that have been revealed to be truly unfortunate, the result of facts that were not what they reasonably appeared at the time. Sad, tragic and many other adjectives apply to such events, and they are understandably traumatic to all involved, including the officers. That does not make the officers’ conduct “wrong”. All that matters is the officers’ perception and conduct at the time force is used, assessed through the insight and experience of the officers involved.

    “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, at 392 U. S. 20-22. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U. S. 797 (1971) … ” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989). The test is not based on hindsight, the ugliness of any significant use of force, or the ignorance of reporters, friends of the offenders, or others unqualified to assess the matter. “The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” 490 U.S. at 396-397.

    Next: the sad truth about the mentally ill is that not one place in the US of which I have ever heard has a decent system. In fact, they suck. The biggest single provider of MH case in this country is correctional facilities as a whole. That is sick, obscene, wrong, and not the fault of the cops, prosecutors, defense bar, judiciary, or corrections personnel. Trust me, we are some of the loudest voices in pointing it out. This is entirely the fault of legislative bodies. We need institutions for the dangerous that are not overcrowded, underfunded, and sometimes staffed with some questionable stuff. We need useful support structures for those who can function in society with support. None of the stuff exists.

    Further, while there can be similarities between the mentally ill and some drug effected individuals, they are not the same. I’ve dealt with some mentally ill folks in the street and in the courtroom. A small number were dangerous. The fact that they are dangerous IS ALL THAT MATTERS. The safety of cops and uninvolved civilians is and must be the priority over the safety of any offender, regardless of why they are dangerous. “The question was not, as the district judge believed, Pena’s actual mental state. That was irrelevant to the reasonableness of Leombruni’s action in shooting him – as would be obvious had Leombruni been in danger of being seriously injured not by Pena but by Pena’s dog. Very little mentation is required for deadly action. A rattlesnake is deadly but could not form the mental state required for conviction of murder. Whatever Pena’s mental problems (apparently he was high on cocaine), they were not such as to prevent him from beating Leombruni’s brains out with a chunk of concrete. Leombruni was entitled to defend himself whether or not Pena, had he assaulted him, and been prosecuted for the offense, would have been acquitted on the ground of insanity.” Pena v. Leombruni, 200 F. 3d 1031, 1034 (7th Cir. 1999).

    • ELC

      As an officer, I agree with this article completely. That is usually my question to a citizen at a scene. When are you going to take responsibility for your action(s) as opposed to blaming me. I tell them that prior to my being sent here I didn’t know you existed. Getting ready to retire soon, pc has left the building.

Submit a Comment

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Law Officer.

You have Successfully Subscribed!