Columbus Cop Who Fatally Shot Black Teen Was Military-Trained Marksman

·7 min read

COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Columbus police officer who fatally shot 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant on Tuesday during a chaotic encounter involving a knife appears to be a military-trained marksman and son of the department’s longtime basic training sergeant.

Social media posts and news reports indicate that the officer who fired at the Black teen, identified by authorities on Wednesday as Nicholas Reardon, is a U.S. Air National Guardsman who received an expert marksman badge with an M4 Carbine. He was a graduate of Bishop Watterson Catholic school in Columbus, where he was a member of the wrestling team; his alma mater posted periodic updates on his progress through basic training.

Air National Guard spokesperson Lt. Col. Devin T. Robinson confirmed to The Daily Beast that a Nicholas Reardon joined in 2015 and has been assigned to the 121st Security Forces Squadron for the Ohio Air National Guard for almost two years. He has been deployed to several contingencies within the United States and once went overseas for six months—though the location was not listed.

A Twitter account and associated Instagram belonging to Reardon are no longer available to view. However, several accounts tweeted at his handle on his birthday, which matches that of a Nicholas E. Reardon from the nearby suburb of Sunbury, who Franklin County court records show was charged with a traffic offense in 2015.

Reardon appears to be the son of retired Sergeant Edward “Ted” Reardon, a 32-year veteran of the Columbus Division of Police. The elder Reardon, also an Air Force veteran, was honored at an Ohio State football game in 2019, where the announcer noted he was the basic training sergeant at the Columbus Police Academy.

According to a send-off tweet from the Columbus Police in early 2020, Reardon trained more than 700 recruits during his tenure at the department.

A contemporaneous Facebook post noted that “One of his son’s [sic] is currently a Columbus Police recruit,” an apparent reference to Nicholas. Multiple attempts to contact Reardon and his family were unsuccessful.

At the Wednesday press conference, authorities released several new body-camera videos of the fatal shooting and the initial 911 calls.

“I understand the outrage and emotion around this incident. A teenage girl is dead, and she’s dead at the hands of a police officer. Under any circumstances, that is a horrendous tragedy,” Columbus Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr. said.

“But the video shows that there is more to this. It requires us to pause, take a close look at the sequence of events. And though it’s not easy, wait for the facts as determined by an independent investigation,” he added.

Columbus Police Release Body-Camera Footage of Fatal Shooting of Black Teen

Police said the incident began around 4:32 p.m. on Tuesday when officers received two 911 calls about an attempted stabbing. In the first call, a female voice can be heard giving the dispatcher an address and saying people were “over here trying to fight us, trying to stab us, trying to put their hands on our grandma.” Screaming can be heard in the background.

“We need a police officer over here now,” the individual is heard saying. “We need a crisis officer over here now.” In the second call, a dispatcher tells the caller that police are en route.

It was unclear if the caller was Bryant, as an aunt told reporters on Tuesday evening.

In the body-cam footage released just hours after the incident and played again on Wednesday, Bryant can be seen wielding a knife as she rushes towards another girl. “Get down! Get down!” an officer is heard yelling—before he fires four shots at Bryant as she appears to be swinging the knife. Bryant is then seen on the ground while a man can be heard yelling, “She’s just a fucking kid, man!”

The officers tended to Bryant and called for a medic, authorities said. She was transported to a nearby hospital, Mount Carmel East, but died of her injuries. The incident occurred just minutes before former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd when he kneeled on the unarmed Black man for more than nine minutes during a May 2020 arrest.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now handling the investigation into the Columbus shooting and reviewing Reardon’s use of deadly force. In one video, the officer can be heard saying “he came at her with a knife.”

Pettus said investigators do not yet know who called the police or what would have happened if Reardon, who was hired in December 2019, did not discharge his weapon. Columbus Interim Police Chief Mike Woods added that Reardon may not have had “cover, distance, and time” to use a Taser.

“Bottom line—did Ma’khia Bryant need to die yesterday? How did we get here? This is a failure on part of our community. Some are guilty, but all of us are responsible,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Wednesday.

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The initial body-cam video was released Tuesday night after Bryant’s family members spoke to reporters and accused authorities of killing a girl who was just trying to defend herself. Donnie Bryant, one of the teenager’s cousins, told The Daily Beast that the family is “absolutely shocked” by the footage of Tuesday’s shooting and wants “justice.”

The video is “very disturbing. As a former city council member, I know first-hand there are de-escalating tactics that could have been used in this situation. You don’t have to pull out your gun and kill a 16-year-old,” Bryant said.

Describing the teenager as a “bubbly” girl who “had a sweet soul and loved her mother very much,” Bryant said the family is struggling to figure out how to move forward. “I don’t think there are words for what is happening right now. We want to know what that officer was thinking. What is really going on with the Columbus Police Department,” he said.

“You heard about the sigh of relief with the George Floyd case. Well, not here in Columbus, Ohio,” he added.

The teenager’s neighbors were also shocked by the shooting. Charles Williams, a 63-year-old neighbor, told The Daily Beast that when he arrived at the scene, officers were still standing around after Bryant’s body had been taken away.

“Neighbors had begun to gather and were chanting, ‘Black lives matter,’” Williams said. “The officers responded by chanting, ‘Blue lives matter.’”

Police have not yet commented on a video that emerged overnight showing a police officer shouting “blue lives matter” to a group of upset residents.

Williams, who is a staff minister at a local church, added that the video of Bryant’s shooting clearly shows that the officer failed to warn the teenager before firing. “This girl did not have to die,” he said. “The officer, after he shot her, they (other police officers) whisked him away.”

Another neighbor, 23-year-old Tammy Taylor, also believes that the officer could have used other means to restraint the teenager.

“His Taser was in a more reachable spot than his gun,” Taylor, who arrived at the scene shortly after the teenager was shot, told The Daily Beast. “He could have Tased her.”

Rosemary Ellison, a 66-year-old who lives in the area, believes Reardon should be criminally charged in Bryant’s death.

“The thing that’s concerning is that there were other officers here (before Reardon arrived). They didn’t see a threat. They didn’t use their authority and position to the extreme,” Ellison said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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