Families of those shot by police speak out for I-940

Photo by Alex Garland

Supporters hope Initiative 940 will change Washington state policy so fatal police shootings happen less often and so there’s more accountability when they occur. Gathering on a few Seattle City Hall steps Friday, a crowd representing 33 different families impacted by police killings gathered in support of I-940 in the hopes of preventing future deaths.

The Puget Sound region witnessed a slew of police killings in the past year: Renee Davis Oct. 21, 2016, Jacqueline Salyers on Jan. 28, Daniel Covarrubias in April, Tommy Le June 13, Charleena Lyles June 18, Giovonn Joseph-McDade June 24. All of them were people of color. Salyers, Davis and Lyles were all pregnant when killed.

“What else did we think would come with this when the police are investigating themselves,” asked Katrina Johnson, Lyles’ cousin. “They keep killing people and getting away with it.”

Via CHS, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

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Community feels left in the dark about Donnie Chin murder investigation

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Donnie Chin was perhaps one of the International District’s most beloved community members. He was a watchdog, a friend, and a family man. Since his death on July 23, 2015, when 59-year-old Chin was caught in the crossfire of what police say was gang violence, the Chinatown International District community and many others are still looking for answers. Last week marked month 25 since Chin’s death, and the fourth meeting the community held with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) at Nagomi Tea House.

“It’s sad to be here,” state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, (D – Seattle) said. “I always hate to ask you to come and relive an unhealed wound.”

She noted that there were more cameras at this meeting than the last one, though there were only three. Santos, along with many other community leaders, feel they’ve been left in the dark when it comes to Chin’s investigation.

“This is simply not acceptable,” Santos said. “This community is also a part of the public to whom the police are accountable.”

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Justice4TommyLe hears answers, commitments from officials at community-led forum


Gabe Nishimura sits with his sign as the event begins. (Photo by Kelsey Hamlin)

Tommy Le was a 20-year-old high schooler shot and killed by King County deputies on June 13 after responding to a disturbance call in Burien. Le was to graduate the next day. Le recently bought a tuxedo for his brother’s wedding, but it had to instead be used for his funeral. The family, due to legal concerns and religious practice, will not be available for interviews for 49 days after his death.

In an effort to get answers for Tommy Le’s family, members of the community organized a forum at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) in which officials listened and answered questions. Young Vietnamese Americans were given priority after the family throughout the evening.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart feels officer-involved shootings should never be investigated within their own police department. For Le’s case in particular, Urquhart said he is asking the Federal Bureau of Investigations to take over.

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Women of color recognized at Charleena Lyles public healing

Don Alexander.jpg

Don Alexander, Charleena Lyles’ cousin, closes out the public hearing in front of Seattle City Council involving the officer-involved killing of Charleena Lyles. He says that if you want to change, you need to go and knock down the doors of those in power and demand change. (Photo by Jayna Harrell)

After the death of Charleena Lyles, a black pregnant mother shot and killed by two Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant requested a public hearing at the UW’s Kane Hall between the Lyles family and SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole.

The chief, however, declined to participate. O’Toole’s response stated Sawant’s request via email had “a disappointing level of ignorance of SPD policies and clear disdain for the investigatory process and review that SPD is court mandated to follow.” SPD has, however, done such public hearings before. The department held a heated public discussion last year with family after Che Taylor, a black man, died at the hands of SPD. O’Toole went on to write that had Sawant “expressed any interest in our work over the past three years…we would have gladly welcomed the invitation to engage.”

Regardless of SPD’s presence, the public hearing wasn’t cancelled, but rather became a space to heal. The event was moderated by Michele Storms, the Washington state American Civil Liberties Union deputy director, who permitted Lyles’ family to speak at any time. Charles Lyles, Charleena Lyles’ father, first explained his daughter’s name is pronounced with a hard “ch-,” not a soft “sh-.” The family had repeatedly heard “Say Her Name” over the past week only to have it pronounced incorrectly.

Charles Lyles brought up how the media blamed his daughter for her own death and denounced such conclusions. He explained Charleena Lyles was harassed by her ex-boyfriend. She even called the police and requested a protection order prior to this incident, but that went reportedly disregarded. The call she placed with SPD on June 18 was for burglary. The police who responded, however, discussed that she was too poor to have those type of belongings in the first place on their way to killing her.

“This one has to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back,” Jennifer Cobb said during her testimony.

She mentioned the death of Ben Keita, a Muslim teenager who was found hanging from a tree in Lake Stevens earlier this year.

Seattle community members repeatedly asked for the councilmembers to hold themselves accountable. It was requested that the officials put their phones away, twice. People asked that more be done for de-escalation training, and to remove paid administrative leave for the two officers under investigation.

One woman, Roxanne White of the Yakama Nation, moved the audience to tears.

“This nation has never served our people, both the Native Americans and African Americans,” White said. “Our lives matter as women, we are sacred, we are the backbone … until they respect us, nothing else will happen to change this community.”

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Contextualizing the death of Charleena Lyles

National and local patterns where people of color die disproportionately at the hands of police
Seattle PI

Credit: Genna Martin/seattlepi.com, via Associated Press

Seattle’s jagged mountains were shaded blue the morning Charleena Lyles was fatally shot by Steven McNew and Jason Anderson of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), matching that of the community’s reaction to such police violence: tragic and somewhat jaded, topped with anger as sharp as the rocky skyline.

Lyles’ death tacks on yet another name to the list of people killed by police since 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in 2014, when the nation decided it had enough and finally started taking note. Lyles was a mother of four, and was reportedly pregnant.

Paying Tribute to Charleena Lyles, No Justice No Pride Action Disrupts Pride Parade

The planning was set over the course of a week, organized by three core members. This year’s Pride Parade would feature a surprise altar for Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother of four killed by Seattle Police Department officers Steven McNew and Jason Anderson on June 18.

via Paying Tribute to Charleena Lyles, No Justice No Pride Action Disrupts Pride Parade — South Seattle Emerald