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Seattle police: No choice but lethal force in fatal shooting

SEATTLE (AP) — Two Seattle police officers who shot and killed a 30-year-old pregnant woman each say they fired their weapons after the woman suddenly pulled a knife and came after them.

The Seattle Police Department late Friday released transcripts of interviews with the officers involved in the June 18 fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles, the Seattle Times reported (http://bit.ly/2p7zusN).

The two officers say they had no choice but to use lethal force after Lyles, a mother of four, tried to stab Officer Jason Anderson in the stomach and cornered Officer Steven McNew in the kitchen.

Family members, who previously expressed concerns about her mental health after Lyles threatened officers with long metal shears less than two weeks before the shooting, question why the officers didn’t use nonlethal methods to subdue the petite woman and have suggested race played a role. Lyles was black, and the officers were white.

The officers responded to the apartment on June 18 after Lyles reported a burglary. Anderson told investigators that the officers were talking with Lyles and he was looking at his notebook when Lyles pulled a knife from about 3 feet away.

Anderson told investigators, according to the transcript, that he “was jumping back, uh, kind of sucking my abdomen in trying to avoid getting stabbed in the stomach.”

Anderson said “just the look on her face changed completely from when I had been talking to her a second early.”

Anderson said Lyles advanced from around a counter into the kitchen toward McNew, telling investigators that “at that moment I was in, in fear that she was gonna try and kill my partner, um, ’cause she was going after him,” according to the transcript. “I don’t know at what point she changed her focus from, from me to Steve, um, but as she started turning the corner to go after Steve, that’s when I, um, that’s when I shot.”

McNew told investigators Lyles had him trapped in the kitchen and was closing the distance between them.

“And at that point, fearing for what was about to happen, what she would do to me, um, being stuck in that spot, I fired my handgun,” he told investigators, noting he remembered hearing shots coming from Anderson’s location.

“She hit the floor,” McNew said. “She, I didn’t see her movement, but when she landed on the floor she landed face down.”

Lyles had four children, and three of them — ages 11, 4 and 1 — were at home when she called police.

After the shooting, McNew said, “one of the little babies crawls out from behind and right on top of her . her . upper body, you know resting his head against her.”

McNew picked up the child, and a third officer who arrived began giving first aid to Lyles.

Along with the transcripts, police also released images of what appear to be kitchen knives as well as a diagram of Lyles’ apartment.

Anderson told investigators he wasn’t carrying a Taser because the battery had died two weeks earlier. But he said that he wouldn’t have used it in that situation because he was trained to use lethal force when being attacked by someone with a knife.

McNew’s transcript is about 29 pages, while Anderson’s transcript is about 60 pages.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

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