Skip to main content

'Get back! Get back!' then shots killed Charleena Lyles

Seattle police officers are heard on an audio tape yelling “Get back! Get back!” before firing a volley of shots that killed a woman who had called in a burglary.

Charleena Lyles was shot Sunday morning. Police said she brandished a knife. But family members say police knew Lyles had mental health issues.

Police say Lyles had called about a burglary in her apartment in the Sand Point neighborhood. They also say they sent two officers to the scene because of previous contact with her.

In the audio released by Seattle police, the two officers are heard talking about Lyles’ history. Lyles then can be heard calmly talking with officers about what was taken from the fourth-floor apartment, including an Xbox video game device.

But several minutes in, there’s noise on the tape and officers can be heard telling someone to get back.

Lyles uses an expletive.

Several shots can then be heard.

Police partially redacted the audio to remove Lyles' identification, address and phone number. The clip below begins when the officers greet Lyles.

On Monday night, Seattle police released more audio included in dashcam video along with video captured by a camera in the hallway outside the apartment. (See partial transcript below.)

Most of the video shows the scene outside the apartment complex near Magnuson Park. But at about 7:20 of the video, the scene switches to the hallway inside. There is no audio, but the officers appear and approach the door. Eventually, they are let in.

Then, at 10:27 of the video (9:39:52 by the video camera's clock), an officer backs part way out into the hall, gun drawn and pointed inside. The video ends shortly thereafter.

Seattle Police Detective Mark Jameison said officers administered first aid, but Lyles was declared dead at the scene.

Three children were in the apartment at the time, and family members said Lyles was pregnant.

At a vigil Sunday night, family members and others called for justice and said the shooting was racially motivated.

Lyles sister Monika Williams questioned why the two officers didn’t use less lethal means.

She said Williams had mental health problems and was small in stature and no threat.

“My nephew had to step over his mother’s body to get out of the house,” Williams said. “What 11-year-old boy deserves to go through that?”

Seattle police say they’ll conduct a thorough investigation.

Another vigil and rally is planned for Tuesday evening.

Transcript of police audio released by the Seattle Police Department is below.

Officer 1: You got a chance to pull that report up?

Officer 2: Which report?

Officer 1: It’s on the 5th.

Officer 2: Oh, this person did a report?

Officer 1: No, no, no. The, she’s got officer safety info from June 5.

Officer 2: What’s that?

Officer 1: She, the — she called for a DV. She let them in and then she started talking all crazy about how she, the officers weren't gonna leave. And she had a giant pair of scissors and then started talking about her —

Officer 2: Has she got a mental caution on her?

Officer 1: She’s got an officer safety caution.

Officer 2: Okay, but no mental on her?

Officer 1: She — no ...

Officer 2: Okay.

Officer 1: ... but this is the first — I’ve been out there for another DV with her son. I don’t know if you were here.

Officer 2: Wait, is this the one with ...

Officer 1: Yeah.

Officer 2: ... like the three kids?

Officer 1: Yeah, yeah. So this gal, she was the one making all these weird statements about how her and her daughter are gonna turn into wolves, and this was on the 5th.

Officer 2: Okay.

Officer 1: She might’ve just took a turn, so.

Officer 2: Okay.

Officer 1: So I'm like, eh, I gotta go up there. ‘Cause they said she was fine at first and then they were inside with her and she had this giant pair of scissors and wouldn't put them down. And then —

Officer 2: She’s alleging a possible burglary?

Officer 1: She said she had a burglary, yeah, that a burglary occurred, so.

Officer 2: Okay. Which unit is she in?

Officer 1: (Redacted)

Officer 2: I wonder if the son’s still around.

Officer 1: Well, that’s what I’m wondering, her husband and son.

Officer 2: Said something about sending him to live with her grandparents or something.

Officer 1: (Unintelligible)

Officer 2: Or something.

Officer 1: They arrested her that day.

Officer 2: They did?

Officer 1: Yeah. So. Apparently she was like between them and the door and (unintelligible).

Officer 2: Oh, she didn't wanna let them leave.

Officer 1: Yeah. Yeah.

Officer 2: Oh, golly.

Officer 1: So I'm like —

Officer 2: Don’t let her behind us. I thought you said, were saying that she wanted them to leave.

Officer 1: No, no, no.

Officer 2: And brandished the scissors.

Officer 1: No, like a —

Officer 2: Like a kidnapping.

Officer 1: Yeah.

Officer 2: Try, oh, geez, what is it?

Rings doorbell...


Officer 1: Hi, this is Officer (Redacted), Seattle Police Department.

Officer 2: There you go.

Officer 1: I remember when we went in for the (unintelligible) it was on the end unit.

Officer 2: Yeah.

Officer 1: What’s the address?

Officer 2: 430 —

UNKNOWN: (Unintelligible) just got the caution for the general location.

Officer 1: Hello, good morning, did you call today?

LYLES: (Inaudible)

Officer 1: Okay. Hi, I’m Officer (redacted), all right if we come in?

LYLES: (Inaudible)

Officer 1: Hi, so what’s going on?

LYLES: (Unintelligible) down here and had a, or a (unintelligible) someone broke into my house and took my things.

Officer 1: (Unintelligible) Was your (unintelligible)?

LYLES: Yeah, it was, and, um, I just ran out to the store so I left it unlocked.

Officer 1: Okay. Oh, Okay. Does anyone, do you have any idea who it might have been, or anything like that, or?

LYLES: I have no idea.

Officer 1: Okay. She said the door was unlocked.

Officer 2: You said the door was unlocked?

LYLES: Yes. (Unintelligible). It looks like they tried to (unintelligible)

Officer 1: And what’s your name real quick?

LYLES: Charleena, C-H-A-R-L—

Officer 1: And then is it Lyles?


Officer 1: L-Y-L-E-S?


Officer 1: Middle C., (redacted)?


Officer 1: Okay. And then a contact number, (redacted)?

LYLES: Yes. If you guys wanna come back here, there’s a (unintelligible).

UNKNOWN: (Unintelligible)

LYLES: (Unintelligible)

Officer 1: Okay. Was there anything else that was taken or gone through while you were gone?

LYLES: They went through like this (unintelligible) necklace with my gold ... and this bag that I had open with my clothes and stuff on my bed. And the brown (unintelligible).

Officer 1: Yeah. So you said a X-Box was taken?


Officer 1: And then what was the (unintelligible)?

LYLES: (Inaudible)

Officer 2: Get back, get back, get back.

Officer 1: Fast back-up.

Officer 2: Get back.

LYLES: Get ready, motherfuckers.

Officer 2: We need help. (Unintelligible) a woman with two knives.

Officer 1: Hey, get back. Get back.

Officer 2: Get back. Tase her.

Officer 1: I don’t have a taser. Get back, get back.

Officer 2: Get back.

Officer 1: Get back.

Shots fired....

Officer 2: Suspect is down, we need officers on-scene, we need medics as well. We are not under control. Officer (redacted), are you all right?

Officer 1: I’m all right, are you all right?

Why you can trust KUOW