Charleena Lyles, an African-American resident at our Sand Point Housing campus, called Seattle Police yesterday morning to report an attempted burglary. The two officers who responded, both white, shot and killed her within a few minutes of entering the apartment.
We don’t know exactly what happened in that time, but we do know this tragedy should not have been the ending.
When people move into Sand Point, they are coming from the traumas of homelessness. Many of these residents struggle to overcome multiple barriers to success, including domestic violence, language barriers, mental health issues, and addiction. We promise them safe, stable housing from which to heal and build the lives they want. We tell them we work with community systems to provide support and resources. But this weekend, that promise was taken away for Charleena and her children by the inability of multiple institutions, including the housing, health, mental health and law enforcement systems. Trust has once again been broken.
As a community, Solid Ground is sick with grief for Charleena’s family and loved ones. We stand with Charleena’s family, the hundreds of residents, staff and community members who have been impacted, and concerned people across our nation.
We call for justice for Charleena. We call for accountability, starting with what we could have done better for Charleena, as well as how the police and other systems that are supposed to support and protect people did not. She called for help and she was shot.
This event has traumatized the family, our residents, staff and the broader community. It threatens long-term harm with relationships and trust in law enforcement and other systems.
Our first priority now is to support the family and our community to survive this trauma and move toward healing. We have brought in grief counselors and will meet with the family and community moving forward to respond to their needs.
Our next priority is to channel our pain into advocacy, to raise our voices and amplify others who demand police accountability, who will not let Charleena’s death be in vain.
We call for a thorough and fair investigation. We seek understanding about whether or not de-escalation protocols were followed, and if not, why? We seek a commitment by SPD to reforms, and de-escalation, especially for people with a history of trauma. We call for increased funding for our community’s mental health, housing, and other systems.
As a direct service and social justice organization, it is incredibly frustrating to see our systems fail the people who come to us. We all must do better to make our community the equitable, safe place we all yearn for.
You can make a gift to support critically needed services at our Sand Point campus. We appreciate your compassion in supporting our community’s healing. If you wish to donate directly to Charleena’s family, please visit her gofundme page: www.gofundme.com/bdgbc8pg.
Mark Putnam says
Our thoughts are with Charleen Lyles children, her family, and her friends. They are also with Solid Ground, Gordon McHenry Jr., and his strong and resilient and compassionate team. Let us, and the community, know what we can do for you in this time of grief and loss.
Claire Brennan Robson says
The GoFund me page is contributing to Monika Williams. How is she related to the family?
Mike Buchman says
Monika is Charleena’s sister.
candiss eickelmann says
Too soon to use this event for fund raising.
Lonnie Lopez says
WTF? “We seek a commitment by SPD to reforms, and de-escalation, especially for people with a history of trauma.”
That’s nice. Maybe next week we can ask the KKK to not be so racist either. Appealing to the humanity of racist killers places the responsibility for change in the wrong hands. Let’s stop begging for change. WE are the ones who make change, dammit!
How many precious black lives do we have to lose in Seattle before we wake up?
Lonnie Lopez says
“We examined implicit race biases in the decision to shoot potentially hostile targets in a multiethnic context. Results of two studies showed that college-aged participants and police officers showed anti-Black racial bias in their response times: they were quicker to correctly shoot armed Black targets and to indicate “don’t shoot” for unarmed Latino, Asian, and White targets. In addition, police officers showed racial biases in response times toward Latinos versus Asians or Whites, and surprisingly, toward Whites versus Asians. Results also showed that the accuracy of decisions to shoot was higher for Black and Latino targets than for White and Asian targets. Finally, the degree of bias shown by police officers toward Blacks was related to contact, attitudes, and stereotypes. Overestimation of community violent crime correlated with greater bias toward Latinos but less toward Whites. Implications for police training to ameliorate biases are discussed.”
Suzanne Gleason says
She was a vivacious young mother facing overwhelming obstacles.
She had dignity and purpose but most of all a dedication to her kids.
Don’t let anyone tell you different!!
She did not deserve this horrible death in the hands of the ones she called for help.
Ed Walker says
Gordon, you are playing straight into racial stereotyping. The impression one is left with is poor black mother of four vs two white cops who probably don’t even live in the city. With virtually no facts established you have now framed the debate that inevitably divides us into our usual comfortable corners. You know better, Gordon. You have a Jesuit educated legally trained mind that is capable of seeking the truth by asking questions and making statements based on objective evidence. I could have written a statement placing blame on the housing provider. But that is just as irresponsible as implying facts not in evidence. You tried to empathize with a tragic victim. But you failed to advance the discussion because you took to easier route of casting blame on all the usual suspects. And just hardened positions all around. You can do better.
Dr. Cosmo Bova says
I’ve been following this travesty of journalism for the past week and considered leaving my own comment. I am a man of colour. I am a man of letters. Your eloquence I cannot surpass. Of course you will be either villified, condemned as a racist or misquoted by the media.
I salute you.
uh, i listened to the 4 minute audio recording, it’s self explanatory, the police where totally professional and doing their job correctly when she came at them with knives, i also have seen the knives she came at them with under the evidence photos. using logic and common sense you can blatantly see these cops were NOT racists just looking to kill black people, but it’s obvious that it’s attempting to be spun that way. how sad that one of the first things thought of is a gofundme page being set up.
Mike Buchman says
Brian, while you might feel comfortable with the conclusions you draw from what you have heard and seen, other people exposed to the same data can come to very different conclusions. What any one of us thinks is “logic or common sense” does not necessarily have anything to do with whether or not the officers were operating in accordance with department policies, whether or not they violated Charleena’s civil rights, etc. No one is saying the officers were blatant bigots/racists “looking to kill black people.” But the SYSTEM is racist, which we can see from the disproportionate treatment of black people and people of color in terms of incidence of arrest, conviction, length of sentencing, etc.