Seattle attorney explains why we shouldn’t expect cops to be charged for Lyles shooting

Jun 26, 2017, 5:32 AM | Updated: 9:22 am
Charleena Lyles protest...
A Seattle attorney and member of ACLU says we shouldn't expect the officers who shot Charleena Lyles to be charged. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Protests continue over the shooting of Charleena Lyles by Seattle police officers who were called to her apartment to investigate a burglary.

Is it loaded to ask ‘where is dad?’ after Lyles shooting?

The latest information — based on security camera video — is that the burglary did not happen in the 24 hours before she called the police – but in any case, it has again raised familiar questions about police use of force.

Seattle attorney Jeffery Robinson, who also works at the ACLU headquarters in New York, has been following the case. He blames this, in part, on the way Washington state law is written.

“Well, I’m heartbroken over what happened in Seattle,” he said. “As you know, Seattle has the most extreme use-of-force statute in the country. What I can tell you is that the police officers who shot and killed that woman in Seattle, nobody should expect them to be charged with a crime. It absolutely, positively will not happen under the law as it is in Seattle.

“I think of that case and I think of the Philando Castile verdict and I think about the verdict in Oklahoma where that officer was acquitted and I think about the verdict that just came out of Milwaukee where that officer was acquitted. And as I’ve said to many people before, it is almost impossible to convict a police officer of murder for killing a person of color.”

But, of course, Seattle isn’t the only city still grappling with this. In Minnesota, as Robinson said, there was the Philando Castile case, where a black man pulled over during a traffic stop was shot in his car after alerting the officer to the fact he had a legal firearm in his glove box. The officer lost his job but was acquitted of the charges.

Robinson says a lot of white people still have trouble understanding what black people feel when they see a cop.

“Tell me there’s a white family out for a drive with a baby in the back seat and an officer is going to see that as a threat,” he said. “What did Castile do that was wrong? The cop said, give me your license and registration. And he reached across … getting his registration out of his glove box. I would say nine out of ten Americans keep their registration in their glove box.

“And where do nine out of the American keep their driver’s license? In their [expletive] wallet. And so he tells the officer, just like you would, ‘officer, I have a weapon on me. I have a weapon and I have my wife and daughter in the car with me.’ What about that says threat?”

Minnesota, by the way, is an open-carry state.

I looked at that, and whether I’m allowed to identify with him or not, I’m telling you I did. He did what I would have done. But Robinson is saying that I would not have been shot. That does not reassure me.

“You shouldn’t be reassured, you’re absolutely right,” he said. “I’m telling you, you wouldn’t have been shot, but you are absolutely right … ask yourself, what would I have done differently? You would have done nothing differently.

“This officer saw a threat. What I saw was a family out for an afternoon drive.”

Misunderstandings like this have changed the way Robinson thinks about situations that might seem like no big deal to most of us. For example, he had to tell his own nephew, who he thinks of as a son, to get out of his apartment in Seattle to avoid any kind of misunderstanding.

“I’m in New York City and a burglar alarm goes off in my condo in Seattle because my nephew, who is essentially my son … he’s 20 years old, home from college for the summer, and walks into the apartment with his headphones on and doesn’t hear the alarm. The alarm company calls me here in New York saying ‘we’re sending the police,’ and I’m like no, no, don’t send the police. But my wife set up the alarm account so I don’t have the code.

“I’m calling my nephew and I finally get him on the phone and I’m screaming at him. Pardon my French, I’m telling him to get the [expletive] out of my apartment; get into the lobby right now. I don’t want you in that apartment when the police come with their hands on their guns thinking they may be looking for a burglar and you have a cellphone in your hand and now I’m burying my nephew.”

His nephew went downstairs and everything worked out fine once police arrived.

Later, his nephew asked why he was being yelled at to get out of the apartment.

“And I had to apologize to him. I said I’m sorry, I was just scared.”

You can listen to the full interview here.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

Light rail transit fare...
Dave Ross

Ross: You have to pay your transit fare now; imagine that

Starting this week, new signs are going up at all the light rail stations.  They are bright yellow signs that say “Pay To Enter.”
9 hours ago
light rail, Sound Transit...
Dave Ross

Ross: Ex-football players would convince people to pay for transit

Yesterday, the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Zachary Meredith, who in 2018 boarded a Community Transit bus without paying his fare.
3 days ago
chatgpt jeopardy...
Dave Ross

Dave Ross quizzes ChatGPT on the hardest Jeopardy! questions

With the new update to ChatGPT being rolled out I found a Reader’s Digest feature headlined: “14 Final Jeopardy! Questions Everybody Got Wrong.”
4 days ago
vaccine mandate policing...
Dave Ross

Ross: Community policing program should include public tackle training

There would be five or ten of our burliest male and female citizens trained to swarm the assailant and, in 30 seconds, have him zip-tied
4 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: The myth of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps

A lot of us take that to the extreme by assuming everyone has those magical bootstraps that, if only you pull on them hard enough, will fix everything
5 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Census expands ethnicity classifications to 217 unique identities

Next year, just in time for the election, the federal government will be rolling out a new list of possible ethnic and racial census classifications.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Seattle attorney explains why we shouldn’t expect cops to be charged for Lyles shooting