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Attorneys in Charleena Lyles lawsuit allege Seattle police officer perjured himself

UPDATED: Tue., June 19, 2018, 4:03 p.m.

A photo of Charleena Lyles and flowers were outside the apartment building where she had lived, in Seattle’s Magnuson Park, after her death. (Ken Lambert / Seattle Times)
A photo of Charleena Lyles and flowers were outside the apartment building where she had lived, in Seattle’s Magnuson Park, after her death. (Ken Lambert / Seattle Times)

Attorneys who brought a lawsuit over the fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles by two Seattle police officers a year ago filed court papers Monday alleging that one of the officers perjured himself when he testified the door to her apartment was closed when she was shot inside the unit.

The attorneys released police video and audio synchronized to surveillance video from the apartment hallway, which they say shows that Officer Jason Anderson stepped into the hallway through an open door as he fired.

Attorneys Karen Koehler and Melanie Nguyen, in a motion filed on behalf of the Lyles estate and the guardian ad litem of her four children, asked King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector to find that Anderson had given “material false testimony” and refer the matter to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review.

The motion, in which the attorneys assert that Anderson’s claim about the door colored the Police Department’s investigation into the shooting, was filed on the anniversary of the shooting.

Lyles, 30, was shot on June 18, 2017, by Anderson and Officer Steven McNew after she reported a burglary and, according to the officers, suddenly attacked them with one or two knives inside her northeast Seattle apartment.

Her death sparked protests, including allegations the shooting was racially motivated because Lyles was African American and both officers are white. A county inquest into the shooting is pending.

Shortly after the shooting, Anderson told police investigators the door to the apartment was closed at the time of the shooting and that he had to immediately fire to protect McNew.

Dan Nolte, a spokesman for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, released the following statement in response to the motion: “The City Defendants strongly disagree with the representations and arguments made by this motion. We will be filing a substantive response in opposition.”

In the motion, the attorneys for Lyles say Anderson testified multiple times in a deposition taken as part of the lawsuit that he shot Lyles while he was backed up to the closed entry door to her apartment.

“Instead he shot into the apartment from the outside hallway,” the motion says, citing the synchronized video analyzed by an expert retained by the attorneys.

The expert compared partial patrol-car video from outside the apartment building and full audio of the call, recorded on the officers’ microphones, to the hallway video. The sound of shots can be heard as Anderson is seen in the doorway and hall.

Shown the hallway video several times during the deposition, Anderson denied he was shooting from the hallway, the motion says.

The attorneys say Anderson’s “false story” about the closed door, along with misrepresentations of distance and lack of shielding, combined in part to mislead the department’s Force Review Board (FRB), Force Investigation Team and crime-scene investigators and the court in the lawsuit.

A crime-scene diagram “mysteriously” doesn’t place Anderson inside the apartment at the time of the shooting, their motion says.

The FRB in November unanimously found the shooting to be reasonable, necessary and proportional and consistent with department training and policy.

In a subsequent report, the FRB explained that Lyles posed an immediate lethal threat to the officers and two of her small children nearby.

In his statement to police investigators shortly after the shooting, Anderson said he fired after Lyles thrust a knife toward him and then quickly moved toward McNew, who was trapped inside the apartment.

Anderson described himself as in “fear that she was gonna try and kill my partner um ’cause she was going after him.”

As Lyles turned a corner to go after McNew, Anderson said, he fired from 4 to 5 feet away and saw Lyles fall to the floor.

The attorneys, in their motion, argue that the issue of whether the door was open or closed was “material,” representing a “substantive fact” integral to the police investigations and the FRB findings “published to the world.”

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