Editor’s note: On Sunday, June 18, Charleena Lyles contacted the Seattle Police Department to report a burglary. She was asking for help. Instead, she died when police opened fire on her. Charleena lived at Solid Ground’s Sand Point housing campus in North Seattle. The following is a statement from Solid Ground’s president and CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr.
Charleena Lyles, an African-American resident at our Sand Point Housing campus, called Seattle Police the morning of June 18 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.
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.
People wishing to support the Sand Point community may make a donation. If you wish to donate directly to Charleena’s family, please visit their GoFundMe page.
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