Charleena Lyles was a “powerful lady” — until she faced Seattle’s flawed criminal justice system

  • Charleena Lyles’ younger brother, Domico Jones, has an endearing nickname for his sister: “String bean Leen.”
  • The 30-year-old mother’s physical build and her documented history of mental illness made the circumstances of her shooting death by Seattle police on Sunday all the more confusing to the family. 
  • How could the officers who killed Lyles see her as a threat after she’d called 911 to report a burglary at her apartment, the family wondered. 
  • The petite and reportedly pregnant woman, whose mental illness was known to Seattle police, experienced homelessness and was a victim of domestic violence during her short life.
  • In Seattle, Lyles’ death puts her at the intersection of several social justice issues. Excessive uses of force by officers, the over-reliance on prisons and jails to deal with women who experience mental health instabilities and a lack of adequate treatment are among the most persistent problems, advocates say. 
  • For nearly five years, Seattle has tried to address some of these issues — the city is under a federal order to retrain its police force and address a pattern of brutality against subjects who exhibit serious psychological distress. 
  • But Lyles’ case suggests these efforts are falling short, as have similar efforts in criminal justice systems around the country. Read more. (6/24/17, 8:41 AM)

Charleena Lyles called 911 for help, police shot her dead

  • A black, pregnant mother of three in Seattle called police to report an attempted burglary at her apartment on Sunday. But when two white Seattle Police Department officers arrived, they reportedly shot and killed the knife-wielding woman in front of her children.
  • She has been identified by relatives as 30-year-old Charleena Lyles. Her family is distraught, the Seattle Times has reported.
  • Police confirmed the shooting happened Sunday morning, after officers responded to Lyles’ Seattle apartment. They’d had previous contact with Lyles, who was alerted to the responding two officers as a “hazard,” the Times reported.
  • The shooting is being reviewed by SPD’s Force Investigation Team and its Office of Professional Accountability, police chief Kathleen O’Toole said. The local prosecutor’s office will also review the incident, the Times reported. Read more (6/19/17)
  • An intense protest resulting in police in riot gear storming the streets erupted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday after the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Joshua Barre, Tulsa World reported.
  • According to Tulsa World, police were serving a civil “pickup order” for Barre at his home in Tulsa after a judge ordered a mental health evaluation for Barre. 
  • Friday was the fourth time since June 1 that police had been sent to pick up Barre. Each time, they failed to bring Barre in for mental health treatment. Read more. (6/10/17, 10:10 AM)

Philando Castile dashcam video released after Officer Jeronimo Yanez acquitted in killing

  • On Tuesday, authorities in Minnesota released several pieces of evidence from their investigation into Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile
  • The evidence included dashcam video, which recorded the encounter.
  • In the video, Castile can be heard telling Yanez, “Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.”
  • As Mic previously reported, Yanez was found not guilty Friday of second-degree manslaughter. He was also found not guilty of two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.
  • Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, infamously streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live. Read more (6/20/17)

Jurors often want to convict police of violent crime. These Supreme Court rulings stand in the way.

Among the things that can make a police officer seem guilty of criminal misconduct, manslaughter and even murder after a fatal encounter with unarmed subject: a damning video, evidence of racial bias, and prior complaints of excessive force.

But despite this evidence, jurors often can’t convict officers for lethal use of force. Most recently, a jury wasn’t able to convict Betty Shelby, the police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who fatally shot Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black motorist. 

The father of four was seen in police video with his hands raised, but on May 17 a jury found Shelby not guilty of first-degree manslaughter. Read more. (6/3/17, 11:10 AM)

4 things to know about the Milwaukee police killing of Sylville Smith

  • Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown headed to court Monday to face charges related to the fatal 2016 shooting of Sylville Smith. 
  • Should Heaggan-Brown be convicted of first-degree reckless homicide, he could face up to 60 years in prison.
  • The 23-year-old Smith — who was black — was unarmed during part of the incident, after which dozens of residents in the majority-black Sherman Park neighborhood protested for two days, facing police officers in riot gear as various businesses were set on fire, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reported at the time. Read more (6/13/17)

California police shoot and kill 16-year-old pregnant teen in stolen car

  • When California police opened fire on a suspect in a stolen car, they also killed pregnant 16-year-old Elena Mondragon, who was in the vehicle, KTVU reports.
  • Police shot into the car, which was connected to multiple robberies in the Bay Area, after the vehicle’s male driver drove into police cars and injured two detectives, authorities said. 
  • Mondragon was in her first trimester of pregnancy when she was killed, according to the coroner. Read more. (3/18/17, 1:50 PM)

Brooklyn, NY 3-25-2000 Funeral for Patrick Dorismond.    

                                      An undercover police officer approached Dorismond and his friend as they were standing outside the “Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge” and asked him where he and his partners could purchase marijuana.[1]One of the officers, Anthony Vasquez, shot Patrick Dorismond in the chest during a scuffle.The officers claim the scuffle began when Dorismond became angry after they propositioned him, loudly declaring he was not a drug dealer. They state he threw a punch at a second officer and with his friend, Kevin Kaiser, began attacking him. Officer Vasquez said he came to his partner’s aid, hearing one of the men yelling “Get his gun!”, drew his weapon and identified himself as a police officer. He claimed Dorismond grabbed the gun, causing it to discharge into his chest.[2]Dorismond’s friend, Kevin Kaiser, claims that neither of the officers identified themselves.[3] He says he attempted unsuccessfully to pull Dorismond back from the confrontation. He described the first undercover cop who had approached Dorismond as aggressive and “in their face”. Kaiser said it was one of the cops who initiated the fight, hitting Dorismond first.[4]An ambulance arrived on the scene within minutes of the shooting and Dorismond was transported to St. Clare’s Hospital where attempts to resuscitate him proved futile. The single bullet from Vasquez’s 9mm pistol had struck Dorismond’s aorta and his right lung, and he rapidly bled to death.

Vintage Original Flyer for the August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium.

On August 29th, 1970, over 20,000 people marched in East Los Angeles to protest against the Vietnam War and raise awareness of the disproportionate number of its Mexican American casualties.  At the peak of the demonstration, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department attacked peaceful protestors who were congregated in Laguna Park.  Moments later, a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Mexican American journalist Ruben Salazar.  Three other individuals were also murdered by law enforcement that day.  The details of Salazar’s death are sketchy, but have since been determined by authorities as an “accident.”

The PBS documentary, RUBEN SALAZAR: MAN IN THE MIDDLE, provides an excellent background history on Salazar, and illuminates the political convictions of an individual who, even in the title of the film, is often problematically described as a moderate.  MAN IN THE MIDDLE has also been criticized for slandering Chicano activists and maintaining the murky details of Salazar’s very apparent assassination by law enforcement.

Back In 1971, UCLA students produced their own documentary, REQUIEM 29, which focuses more on the media and law enforcement’s distortion of the incidents at the Moratorium march, rather than on the “cult” of Ruben Salazar.  The film has not been released for more than 40 years, except as excerpts in other documentaries or in rare VHS copies.

In the wake of the police violence and the distortion of the truth by law enforcement and the media in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, perhaps now is the time for the public to rediscover the truth of the complicit nature between the media and law enforcement that young people were already aware of over 40 years ago.

Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it….