Relatives of Charleena Lyles were among several families who came together Wednesday night to talk about race and police in Seattle.
The families say they're part of a club they never wanted to be a part of. Their common bond? Losing a loved one in an officer-involved shooting.
Lyles died on June 18. She was shot by Seattle Police officers after she called 911 to report a suspected burglary at her home.
Wednesday's community conversation and forum was organized by Andre Taylor, who lost his brother in a police shooting in 2016.
Taylor invited King County Sheriff John Urquhart and the leadership of the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington to take part in the forum.
"We want a cordial conversation. We want it to be tough and straightforward, but respectful as well," Taylor told the crowd.
He was the first to ask a tough question of law enforcement representatives on the panel.
"Have you ever been in a situation or seen it, where you could have taken someone's life and chose not to? While another officer was in the same situation chose to? How does one make that decision?" Taylor asked Urquhart.
The crowd listened closely to the sheriff's response.
"I have been in situation where I could have shot people. And it would have been justified under state and federal law, but I didn't. So you ask why I didn't, and I don't know. I mean, these are literally split second decisions that we have to make, and that we are asked to make," said Urquhart. "Some people make one decision, and it is a good decision. Some people make a decision to shoot, and it's a bad decision, there's no question about that. And lots of officers make a decision not to shoot. And almost always, that is a good decision."
Family members of Lyles asked a few questions as well.
"What are you guys doing to restore or help restore faith in the minority community, so we are not afraid every time we encounter a police office?" asked Lyles' cousin, Katrina Johnson. "Because a lot of times when we encounter a police officer we wind up dead. So what are you guys doing to help combat that fear that we have?"
Carlos Bratcher of the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington admitted that the law enforcement community can do more to work to restore that faith. He said his organization is working on exactly that.
"Because you can't sit back and see these things occur and say, you know, 'It is what it is. It's not my problem,'" said Bratcher. "We can do a lot more. We really can."
Urquhart and the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington have both endorsed Initiative 940. Most of the families at Wednesday's forum support it as well.
The initiative would make it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers for misusing deadly force. I-940 would also require officers around the state to have more mental health and de-escalation training.
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