SEATTLE – Family and friends celebrated the life of Charleena Lyles at a funeral service at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Monday.
Lyles is the African Amercian woman who was shot and killed by two Seattle police officers in her apartment on June 18. She had called 911 to report a burglary at her home and asked that a police officer be sent to her apartment.
Two officers responded to her Magnuson Park apartment to take a report.
In the middle of gathering information, Seattle police say Lyles came after the officers with a knife, prompting them to open fire.
Family members shortly after the incident said the mother of four was struggling with mental illness. They blamed the officers for using unnecessary deadly force.
On Monday, the 30-year-old lay in an open casket with hundreds looking on.
“It just hurt me so bad. I see her for the first time yesterday and I started to cry,” Lyles' father said.
Her father learned his daughter was dead on Father's Day.
The pain was expressed through poetry by family members during the funeral.
“As skinny as a string and as bouncy as a spring now that you are free fly high paint rainbows,” said one sister.
“You were always willing to give your everything I never imagined you would have to give your very life,” said another.
The circumstances around her death by white police officers put her death into the national spotlight.
“It's all right to be mad when people who are supposed to protect us end up killing us,” the reverend at the service said.
People took to the streets ahead of her funeral on Monday but her pastor says she is more than just a political statement.
“Do not sell her memory for somebody else's agenda,” the pastor said.
The pastor said he saw Lyles hours before she died. He says she was at church crying and didn’t want to leave.
“Her soul may have been tainted by challenges and issues but it doesn’t define who she is,” said the pastor.
If there is one way to define Lyles, family members say, is that she was a devoted mother
“So strong inside I watched you fight to give your kids anything,” said one sister.
The emotions bringing some to their feet and others asking to say Charleena's name one more time.
“Say her name,” an aunt said.