The claim: Knife was on the ground and away from her when Ma’Khia Bryant was shot by police
As America watched a Minneapolis courthouse awaiting a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, a new but familiar story broke in Ohio.
A police shooting had left a Black person dead, sparking immediate protests.
A confrontation outside a Columbus, Ohio, foster home left 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant dead. This occurred before a jury found Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, guilty of three charges for kneeling on the neck of George Floyd until he died.
The Washington Post reported that just after the incident, 60 protesters had gathered at the scene of the shooting, while 100 more gathered in downtown Columbus and marched in front of several municipal buildings.
Many social media posts have associated Bryant’s killing with the murder of Floyd, and several prominent figures have spoken in outrage about the shooting. Despite the limited information available on the Bryant shooting, many presented details of what purportedly happened.
One such claim, a Facebook post made six hours after the shooting and shared over 3,000 times so far, presents this narrative:
"As the George Floyd verdict was being announced, Columbus Ohio Police killed 15 year old Makhia [sic] Bryant. She called the police as she was about to get jumped. She had a knife in her hand for self defense, but when officers arrived it was on the ground away from her. The officer immediately opened fired shooting her 4x’s [sic]."
This description misses the mark on several points, most notably in the claim that she was not holding the knife. Police body camera video shows otherwise.
The user could not be reached for comment.
Details of the shooting
At 4:44 p.m. EDT April 20, police arrived at a foster home in Columbus, responding to a caller who reported women were attempting to stab them and "put their hands on" them roughly 15 minutes earlier. The original 911 caller did not mention what weapons were at the scene, Columbus Interim Police Chief Michael Woods said in a press conference that night.
Woods also released body camera footage (WARNING: graphic content included in this link) from the officer who fatally shot Bryant that night – an unusually quick move for police departments.
Immediately after the officer exits his car, the footage shows Ma’Khia chasing and then pushing one teenager to the ground and attempting to attack her. The officer yells, “Hey! Get down! Get down!” Seconds later, Bryant lunges at another young woman, who is pressed up against a car.
The video shows a knife in Bryant’s right hand as she swings it toward the other girl. The officer then fires four shots.
The knife falls from Bryant's hand and clatters to the ground as she collapses.
Two minutes after police arrived, Columbus Fire Department medics were dispatched. Bryant was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 5:21 p.m., The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther called it "a tragic day in the city of Columbus. Horrible, heartbreaking situation." Many celebrities have spoken out against the police's actions since the shooting occurred.
Confusion around the details
But some details of what happened remain murky, and in some cases disputed.
The Facebook post examined here as well as several others misstate the victim's name and age. The victim was 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, as Franklin County Children’s Services, which had custody of the teenager, later confirmed to The Columbus Dispatch. The shooting took place outside of the foster home where Bryant resided.
The user’s confusion may stem from an account of the event given by Bryant's aunt, Hazel Bryant.
In addition, Bryant’s mother and another family member told CBS Columbus affiliate WBNS-TV that evening that it was Ma’Khia who had called the police and that she was acting in self-defense, but the police have not yet said who made the initial 911 call.
During the press conference, Woods said after the Bureau of Criminal Investigation concludes the investigation, the Division of Police would conduct an administrative review of all police present at the scene.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim Bryant was not holding a knife when she was shot by police FALSE, because it is not supported by our research. Bodycam footage released by police showed the teen was confronting another girl and wielding the knife as shots were fired.
Our fact-check sources :
Columbus Dispatch, April 20, "Ma’Khia Bryant: Columbus police release body camera footage in shooting of 16-year-old"
Columbus Dispatch, April 20, "Ma'Khia Bryant: What we know about the Columbus police shooting of the 16-year-old girl"
The Washington Post, April 21, "Ohio police fatally shoot Black teenage girl just before Chauvin verdict"
WBNS-TV, Ma'khia Bryant's mom's message
The Week, April 21, "Columbus police fatally shoots Ma'Khia Bryant, 16, quickly releases body-cam footage"
WKYC-TV via YouTube, April 20, "Columbus police hold press conference after officer shoots, kills 16-year-old girl"
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Ma'Khia Bryant holding knife while shot by Columbus police