Skip Navigation
Books for changing the world

#SayHerName Charleena Lyles: Police Murder and the Uprising for Black Lives

Katrina Johnson, Charleena Lyles' cousin, joins Michael Bennett, Nikkita Oliver and Jesse Hagopian to talk about the struggle for justice for Charleena and the new uprising for Black Lives.

The mass uprising in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd around the world has created bold new possibilities for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Bold incentives are being taken around the country to defund, disarm, and dismantle policing.

As the African American Policy institute raised by launching #SayHerName, much of the focus of police violence has been given to the killing of Black men, and Black women and transgendered people have not received the same attention. The recent murder of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician, who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department by police is one case that deserves more attention. Another is Charleena Lyles.

On June 18, 2017, two Seattle police officers entered the apartment of Charleena Lyles. The police had been called by Charleena because she feared someone was breaking into her home. Within minuets of entering the apartment, the officers shot her down in a hail of seven bullets, with at least three of them in the back. The officers alleged they had to use lethal force because Charleena had a paring knife. One of the officers was supposed to have a taser, but had not properly charged it, so he did not bring it with him–a violation of department policy. Charleena was pregnant and was killed in front of three of her four kids, who had to be carried over her body to leave the apartment.

Watch this conversation about next steps in winning justice for Charleena and her family and how her story connects to the new movement for Black Lives in the streets today.

Katrina Johnson works for the Public Defenders Association as a Project Manager diverting people out of the criminal legal system into community based resources—instead of jail and prosecution. Katrina became a social justice activist/advocate and spokesperson for her family in June of 2017, after her first cousin Charleena Lyles was killed in her home in North Seattle after police officers responded to the location to investigate a theft Charleena had reported. Katrina works with other families who have lost loved ones to the use of lethal force in Washington State and around the county.

Michael Bennett is a three-time Pro Bowler, Pro Bowl MVP, Super Bowl Champion, and two-time NFC Champion. He has gained international recognition for his public support for the Black Lives Matter Movement, women’s rights, and other social justice causes. In 2017, he was named one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans by The Root, was the Seattle Seahawks nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and was honored along with his brother Martellus with a BET Shine a Light award for exceptional service. He is the author of Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.

Nikkita Oliver is a Seattle-based creative, community organizer, abolitionist, educator, and attorney. Nikkita is the co-executive director of Creative Justice, an arts-based alternative to incarceration and a healing engaged youth-led community-based program.

Jesse Hagopian is an award-winning educator and a leading voice on issues of educational equity and social justice unionism. He is an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine and is the co-editor of Teaching for Black Lives, and editor of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing.