Ma’Khia Bryant Shooting: What We Know So Far
The police shooting of Columbus, Ohio teenager Ma’Khia Bryant on Tuesday (April 20) has marred much of the elation being felt over the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial as people nationwide were satisfied with that outcome, only to find out that another Black person died at law enforcement hands.
Social media narratives went in many directions as news of Bryant’s death spread, and details remained unclear in the hours since. A police body camera video showing the moment of the incident was released by the Columbus Police Department Tuesday night, which answers some questions but raises others.
Still, the death has agitated a community still raw over other police shootings within the last year, including Andre Hill, 47, a Black man shot in the garage of a friend he was visiting during the Christmas holiday season; and Casey Goodson, 23, a Black man shot by police on his grandmother’s doorstep by an Ohio sheriff’s deputy.
So far, here’s what is known about the death of Ma’Khia Bryant:
• Ma’Khia Bryant was 16, despite earlier reports that she was 15 years old, and lived in foster care under the custody of Franklin County Children’s Services, which confirmed her identity to The Columbus Dispatch. A woman, identified as Hazel Bryant was at the scene and said Ma’Khia was her niece and had gotten into a physical altercation with someone else at her foster home.
• Her mother, Paula Bryant said that she was an honor student, “This never should have happened, she’s a loving girl,” Bryant told local station WBNS, adding that her daughter told her that she’d be coming home. “I’m very upset, I’m hurt. I want answers. My daughter dispatched the Columbus Police for protection, not to be a homicide today.”
• Police got a 911 call around 4:35 p.m. Tuesday about an attempted stabbing. The caller said that at least two females were trying to stab her, but then hung up before a dispatcher could get more information. An officer, whose name has not been released, shows up at the scene and at 4:45 police report that the officer was involved in a shooting. This took place about 20 minutes before Minnesota Judge Peter Cahill announced that a jury had convicted former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin on all counts in the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
• Interim Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods said that officers called for emergency medical assistance and proceeded to initiate CPR. She was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition, but died of her injuries. It is unclear if there was anyone else hurt.
• Body camera footage from the incident was released Tuesday night. Although it was unusual to release the video so quickly, Columbus officials said they wanted the public to have information as soon as possible. In the video, an officer walks up to a driveway with a group of people standing around. A person with a knife, later identified as Ma’Khia, is seen pushing toward another female, who falls to the ground. She then swings the knife toward another female and the officer opens fire, striking Ma’Khia four times. The knife is seen in the video laying on the ground near her leg.
• Woods said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has opened an investigation into the shooting. The status of the officer involved is not yet known.
• Demonstrators came to the scene, angered over the shooting, many believing that Ma’Khia had dropped the knife before she was shot, and also saying she was the person who called 911. Others say the officer did not shout an order to drop the knife before opening fire. However, eyewitnesses who saw the incident from the beginning have not yet publicly come forward.
• On Wednesday afternoon, officials in Columbus, including Mayor Andrew Ginther and Interim Chief Woods, held a press conference to answer questions from the media over Bryant’s death. At the start, Woods played additional body-camera videos from other officers who responded to the scene as well as the two 911 calls made that lead up to the incident. The mayor says he plans to release more footage, including the patrol car dash-camera video, either later on Wednesday or early Thursday.
• The officer involved in the shooting was identified as Nicholas Reardon, who was the first police personnel to arrive at the scene. He was hired on the Columbus police force in December, 2019, according to The Columbus Dispatch. His body camera illustrates the incident from the time he arrived.
• The use of deadly force was also addressed by Woods. He said that officers faced with “employing deadly force” can respond with deadly force. He was also asked generally about the policy of police use of tasers versus guns, but was not able to comment on Bryant’s specific incident. Generally, he stated, “when officers are faced with someone employing deadly force, deadly force can be the response the officer gives.”
“If there’s not deadly force being perpetrated on someone else at that time, an officer may have the opportunity to have cover, distance and time to use a taser,” he added. “But if those things are not present, and there’s an active assault going on in which someone could lose their life, the officer can use their firearm to protect that third person.”
• The local NAACP released a statement Tuesday questioning the shooting:
“The NAACP Columbus Branch has viewed the body camera footage released to the public and we have several unanswered questions. What threat did this 16-year-old girl pose to the police officer? What steps were taken to deescalate the situation? Why wasn’t a taser or pepper spray used? FInally, how does a call for help result in the death of a 16-year-old?”
Paul Meara contributed to this story.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.