Autopsy: Charleena Lyles was shot 7 times by Seattle police | KUOW News and Information

Autopsy: Charleena Lyles was shot 7 times by Seattle police

Aug 30, 2017

Seven bullets riddled Charleena Lyles’ body earlier this summer when she was shot by Seattle police.

Those bullets struck her chest and arm and dug into into her hip, back and side.

And her uterus, blowing through a four-month old fetus.

It would have been a boy.

This is according to the autopsy report for Lyles, released Wednesday by attorneys representing her father, Charles Lyles.  

A 30-year-old African-American woman, Lyles was killed when two officers responded to a burglary call at her apartment on June 18.

The officers say Lyles confronted them with a knife. They say they fired because they feared for their safety.

The medical examiner’s report shows two bullets were fired into Lyles’ abdomen, one into her hip, that another grazed her chest, two were fired into her back, and one into the back of her arm.

The report doesn’t state which of the wounds ultimately killed her, but several of the gunshots were potentially fatal, according to the attorneys.  

Also released was a toxicology report that shows no drugs, alcohol or medication were present in Lyles’ system when she was killed.

Karen Koehler, an attorney for Charles Lyles, said they’re releasing the reports to inform public discourse around the case.

The case prompted vigils, marches and outrage among many community members. And Koehler said the case has been divisive.

“Why hold back on a document like this which answers a fundamental question," Koehler said. "Which was, 'Was she on drugs?' Which many people probably assumed she was, and she was not.”

Koehler said the autopsy report has been particularly hard for her client.  

“Mr. Lyles is just, he’s so hurt. I mean, it’s so profound. He didn’t know that he was going to have a male grandbaby; he’s finding that out from coroner's reports,” Koehler said.

Attorneys for Lyles’ father stressed the importance of body cameras when addressing the media Wednesday. They said body cameras promote accountability and could have resulted in fewer questions around this case.

“If we had body cameras in this case, we would know exactly what happened. All we know right now is that she was hit seven times," said attorney Travis Jameson. "A woman who was just barely over 5 feet tall, weighing 100 pounds..."

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued an executive order last month requiring officers to wear body cameras. The Seattle Police Officers Guild has filed a complaint over the decision. They say the issue should be subject to collective bargaining.

Charles Lyles’ attorneys have also repeatedly asked why the police officers who responded to the burglary call at Lyles’ apartment did not have a plan going in.

Lyles was known to police and, according to her family and court records, had mental health issues.

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing. Seattle police did not return a request for comment Wednesday.

Meantime, attorneys representing other members of Lyles’ family have denounced the release of the autopsy and toxicology reports.

In a statement they said the release by Koehler and her colleagues:

“…placed Charleena's children in a position of possibly having to hear about details of their mother's killing on the news or at school without any preparation. Additionally, [Koehler] may well have compromised the longer term interests of the children by speaking publicly about the facts of the shooting prior to the coming inquest and without a chance for strategic reflection with counsel for the rest of the family about how these newly-produced findings may affect any litigation or claims.
 

Regrettably, the situation has devolved into one in which a single family member has attempted to seize the reins and usurped the voices and interests of the entire rest of Charleena's family. In the interest of not exposing intra-family conflict publicly, the rest of the family has not to this point criticized the unilateral action of Charles Lyles and his attorneys, and have sought to rectify the situation privately, but that courtesy has not been returned.

Mr. Lyles left the Seattle area shortly after Charleena's birth and was not on hand most of her life to assist with her challenges and struggles as a young woman and mother. Those family members who did play that role join together to ask Mr. Lyles and his attorneys to act with greater restraint and respect for the interests of the rest of the family, who have pro bono legal counsel and are doing their best to act responsibly in the interests of Charleena's children.  Unilateral and sensational public posturing and publicity stunts are not in the best interests of Charleena's kids, short term or long term.”

An email exchange provided by Koehler on Wednesday evening shows that she notified their attorney that morning was told the other family members had met with the medical examiner.

Koehler and her team have filed a claim against the city of Seattle over Lyles’ death, a first step in potentially filing a lawsuit.

The city has 60 days to respond to the claim before a suit can be filed.

“We’re letting a clock tick for our claim so that we can file a lawsuit and get the answers. Because right now, until we file the lawsuit, all we can do is just hope we get more documents. And we want answers,” Koehler said. 

The city of Seattle does not comment on open claims.