'It could be me': Women react to Charleena Lyles' death | KUOW News and Information

'It could be me': Women react to Charleena Lyles' death

Jun 22, 2017

On Sunday morning, two Seattle police officers responded to a reported burglary. That call ended in the fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles, an African-American mother of four.

Just days after, black women in the city are feeling the impact. 

At a rally for Lyles Thursday, here's what some women had to say.

Story includes strong language.

Santa Anigo​ (pictured above)

Before moving to the U.S., Anigo said she had a positive view of law enforcement. 

"I always wondered, why are African-Americans so afraid of the police?... And after a while, I came to understand with all the shootings, all the police brutality, all the discrimination, you just get to learn over time that this is your reality."

"My reality is that I could call the police and I could get shot, I could be having an interaction with someone and they could take it the wrong way, accuse me of being an angry black woman or whatever, or assume certain things about me because of my skin tone."

Anigo said she wants to see all the people who stood up at the Women's March in January standing up now to protest the death of Charleena Lyles. 

Tonya Isabell, a cousin of Charleena Lyles, poses for a portrait during a rally at Westlake Park on Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Seattle, Washington.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tonya Isabell

Isabell is Lyles' cousin. She said the family is hurting. 

"It's like it's not real. How is she here one day and gone the next for no reason? I mean, sure they said she was a threat, but what threat was she?" Seattle police say Lyles brandished two knives after the officers arrived, but family members say she was a small woman and wasn't a real danger.

"It makes me feel like my life ain't important. So if they ever stop me, 'hands up, don't shoot'. My life doesn't mean nothing to society, that's how I feel. I'm black, I'm a woman, and my life doesn't matter," Isabell said.

When asked what white community members don't understand about her experience as a black woman, Isabell replied:

"What you don't understand? I think if you were in Charleena's shoes and you had a knife, I don't think they would have killed you. By me being who I am, something in their demeanor, they have a fear of us. And why? We all bleed the same blood. And why? My skin color does not make me inferior to anyone."

Isabell said she doesn't want anger to come out of this. She wants people to know the family is hurting and she wants the prayers of the community. 

Hailey Williams, 21, poses for a portrait during a rally at Westlake Park on Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Seattle, Washington.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Hailey Williams 

Williams said Lyles' death hit close to home. 

"Because that could have been me, or it could have been my cousin, it could have been any of us. So when she hurts, I hurt too."

Williams said, even in liberal Seattle, it's hard being a black woman. And she wants to see more respect, more patience. 

"There's a lot of hurt in my heart, but I'm having a lot of hope."

Mica McGriggs poses for a portrait during a rally at Westlake Park on Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Seattle, Washington.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Mica McGriggs

McGriggs said the shooting wasn't that surprising to her, but that makes it all the more tragic. 

"Because she is me. Charleena Lyles is me and I am her... and it could have as well been me, and it could be me on a different day."

McGriggs said the shooting has made her wary of interacting with the police. She left work early this week because she realized one of her brake lights was out and she was worried about being pulled over.

"Because I don't know what's going to happen. I don't want the situation to escalate."

McGriggs wants people to be more aware of their own racial bias.

"My presence, my body, black women, black men, we do elicit fear in others. And I think it's shocking for some, there's a disconnect for white people to see, 'oh, are we really afraid?' And I think, yes. And each of us needs to examine our race-based anxiety."

Faiza Ahmed, 27, poses for a portrait during a rally at Westlake Park on Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Seattle, Washington.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Faiza Ahmed

Until the death of Charleena Lyles, Ahmed always took for granted that she'd call the police if she ever needed them. 

"Before this tragedy, 911 was literally on my speed dial. Now it's been taken off."

"Should I trust them? What do I do if someone breaks into my house, who do I call for help? Now the police is going to be the last agency I would call for help, you know what I mean. That's something that's in the back of my mind ever since this past weekend."

Ahmed said now she's more likely to call her sisters or her parents if something happens.

Andrea McCallum poses for a portrait during a rally at Westlake Park on Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Seattle, Washington.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Andrea McCallum 

McCallum said Lyles' death has brought up anger for her about what she faces as a black woman, and what her children face. She said she feels stereotyped when she walks into stores, when people pass her in the street, and by the police.

"They got shit against us. We ain't never free. We ain't never free, we ain't never going to be free."

"I'm mad. I'm a mad black woman. I'm going to always be mad, every day of my life I'm going to be mad because I've got to fucking fight."

McCallum said the shooting has had an impact on her because she feels like she has to take care of herself if she's in trouble, she said she feels like she can't call the police.