If We Can’t Call the Police, Who Can We Call?

Charleena Lyles, the 30-year old Black pregnant mother of four who was shot and killed by Seattle police officers responding to a burglary that had been reported by her at her own apartment, was victimized twice yesterday.

First, by the person, or people, who attempted to break into her home.

And second, by the police officers who without cause or care, murdered her.

More than a hundred people attended a candlelight vigil outside of the housing complex where she lived and was ultimately robbed and murdered. Here is the rally (provided by The Stranger):


Reportedly, Lyles suffered from mental illness and was also a survivor of domestic abuse. Her address had been flagged by Seattle police as a special case. The day of the burglary, she answered the door holding a knife – likely out of fear of just being victimized. The police responded by shooting her multiple times.

Here’s what her sister said at the vigil about Lyles state at the time:

She was asking them for help. And they weren’t getting her none. With her domestic violence – that’s why the mental instability came into play. That’s why CPS [child protective services] came into play. Because nobody was trying to this male, or these males – and I’m not going to mention their names because it ain’t they fault why she’s dead today – but they should have been stopped. And there should not been no CPS case open because they weren’t stopped. And my sister started going through mental health issues because she felt like she couldn’t get help for domestic violence and now they are trying to take my kids.

Let me say it again: Charlene Lyles was victimized twice on Sunday.

And yet in this forty minutes clip, we hear the family along with other activists asking for police accountability. And in the forty minutes video we hear the family along with the other activists demanding justice.

All worthy endeavors.

But where were the pleas for the person, or people, who attempted to burglarize her that Sunday morning, to turn themselves in? And where were the calls for better community policing and protection for our women and children?

According to reports by the US Department of Justice:

  • In 2007 black female victims of intimate partner homicide were twice as likely as white female homicide victims to be killed by a spouse (0.96 and 0.50 per 100,000, respectively). • Black females were four times more likely than white females to be murdered by a boyfriend or girlfriend (1.44 and 0.34 per 100,000, respectively).
  • Black females historically have experienced intimate partner violence at rates higher than white females.
  • Black females experienced higher rates of rape or sexual assault in 2008 than white females or females of other races (2.9 compared to 1.2 and 0.9 per 1,000 females age 12 or older, respectively.)
  • Single heads of households male (59 per 1,000 households) and female (54 per 1,000 households) living with children experienced the highest rates of burglary while no household member was present. Households composed of single females with children had the highest rate of burglary while someone was home (22 per 1,000 households).

[Sources: “BJS National Crime Victimization Survey,” published 2010; DOJ Bureau of Justice “Female Victims of Violence” Report; published September 2009]

Let me say this just one more time: Charleena Lyles was victimized twice that tragic Sunday morning.

And yet we only seem to care about one aspect of her fatality.

And this is unfortunate because Black women are one of the most criminally victimized group in America. And the reason why our victimization is so prevalent is because we are also the least protected group in America.

So my question is when we are in trouble; when we are in need of help, who can we call on?