Sunday morning, two Seattle police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles, a pregnant African American mother of four, after she called the police for help. There is still much we do not know about the incident, and may never know. However, the details that have emerged are disturbingly familiar in the wake of so many police shootings in African American communities. Ms. Lyles reportedly suffered from mental illness and is reported to have been holding a knife when she was shot, and yet I have to wonder why a less deadly force option was not chosen.
All across our country, there are hundreds of thousands of men and women who put on their uniform each and every day, conscientiously serve their communities, and help make our neighborhoods safer. All across our country, there are women and men who ethically and bravely serve us as police officers. I give thanks for them and ask that you do too. I applaud their sacrifice and service. And yet, even in light of this truth, we cannot deny any longer that we have a problem. It is past time for a thorough review of policies which seem to so quickly escalate to “shoot to kill.” And the disproportionate number of victims among people of color can no longer be ignored.
In the coming days, there will, no doubt, be stories detailing Ms. Lyles troubled history and there will be those who use those stories as justification for the shooting and the loss of life. But no matter her past, the life of Charleena Lyles had value. No matter her difficulties and troubles, she did not deserve to die. Charleena Lyles’ life mattered.
Please join me in praying for the children and family of Charleena Lyles, for the two police officers, and their families, and for everyone affected by this tragedy. And most especially pray that more of us will be affected by this tragedy, and the many others that mirror it, so that there may be reform and reconciliation in our land.