This year, police use of disproportionate force against the public in the U.S. seemed to have subsided as compared to what happened in 2015-2016. In these two previous years, many innocent people, the majority of them African-Americans, were killed by reckless officers.
But the police have once again come under public scrutiny in the U.S. after it emerged that two white police officers shot dead a pregnant black woman in the city of Seattle on Sunday, June 18.
The brutal killing happened in the home of the woman after she requested emergency assistance from the police. The woman has been identified as Charleena Lyles. She was 30 years old, with three children.
According to how Lyles was killed, she herself called the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to report an attempted burglary at her Magnuson Park residence. But the police said when they reached the apartment, there was no burglary, and that Lyles had armed herself with a knife.
The two white officers then discharged their deadly weapons because of the common knife Lyles was holding, killing her instantly. According to a purported audio of the shooting the police released, an officer is heard saying “get back, get back, get back” before the shots were fired.
The fatal shooting has sparked fury across the city of Seattle. Family members said Lyles was several months pregnant and had been struggling with mental-health issues for the past year. It is even said the SPD is aware that Lyles had a mental-health problem.
A brother of Lyles, Domico Jones confirmed that his sister had suffered from mental-health issues for the past year and the family had tried to help her. He said Lyles regularly armed herself with a knife, claiming to use it to protect her 4-year-old girl with Down Syndrome, from being taken away by her boyfriend.
Jones explained that her sister called the police due to her mental-illness, and upon seeing the police, thought they were there to take her daughter away, hence she pulled the knife to scare the officers.
According to Jones, the family arrived at the scene of the shooting two hours after it had happened, adding that his sister was “tiny” and that the two officers could have easily taken the knife from her without discharging their weapons.
Some family members also said they believe the officers killed their beloved because of her race. They have called for justice, saying there is no justification for the killing. Many people in the city have attended a vigil for Lyles, sympathizing with the family for the loss.
“Why couldn’t they have Tased her? They could have taken her down. I could have taken her down,” said Monika Williams, Lyles’ sister.
The Seattle Times reports that the SPD has been under a federal consent decree since 2012 after a Department of Justice investigation found its officers routinely engaged in excessive use of force, most often against people with mental or substance abuse problems.
The investigation also found that the SPD has been carrying out biased policing, mostly against African-Americans and other minority races in the city.
Although a federal court recently said the SPD has made significant reforms since the consent decree was made in 2012, activists say nothing much on policing has changed in the city.