Police shoot teen girl to death in Ohio and release bodycam video

Police shoot teen girl to death in Ohio and release bodycam video
Jordan Freiman
·5 min read

Editor's note: The video this story links to is disturbing.

A 16-year-old girl was fatally shot Tuesday by police in Columbus, Ohio. Police released some body camera footage of the shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant on Tuesday night and released additional footage and two 911 calls in a press conference on Wednesday, citing "the public's need, desire and expectation to have transparency."

Interim police chief Michael Woods said Wednesday that dispatchers first received a call for help at 4:32 p.m. On the call, a woman told officers that people were trying to fight and stab her and others, according to an audio recording played during the press conference. A second 911 caller also asked police to respond to the scene, but the call ended quickly after the person realized police had just arrived.

Officers arrived on the scene at 4:44 p.m., Woods said. A slowed-down version of body camera footage appears to show Bryant attacking two other people, lunging at one with something in her hand, just after an officer arrived. The officer, identified by Woods as Nicholas Reardon, fired his weapon several times while Bryant and another girl were struggling against the side of a parked car. A knife could be seen next to Bryant's body after the shooting.

It was unclear what led to the altercation, which was already in progress when the officers arrived.

An image from police bodycam video shows a teenage girl appearing to wield a knife before being shot by police in Columbus, Ohio, on April 20, 2021.  / Credit: Columbus Police Department via AP
An image from police bodycam video shows a teenage girl appearing to wield a knife before being shot by police in Columbus, Ohio, on April 20, 2021. / Credit: Columbus Police Department via AP

Bryant's family told CBS Columbus affiliate WBNS-TV that Bryant was the one who called the police for help, saying people were fighting outside her house. Woods declined to comment on who called 911.

Woods said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting. When the agency has finished its investigation, "the divisional police will conduct an administrative review of the actions of this officer and all officers at the scene," Woods said.

The officer who killed Bryant will be "taken off the street" while the shooting is investigated, Woods said. He also said a decision on whether the officer violated any policy will come after the criminal investigation is complete and sent to a grand jury.

"It's a tragedy. There's no other way to say it," Woods said. "It's a 16-year-old girl. I'm a father, her family is grieving. Regardless of the circumstances associated with this, a teenage girl lost her life yesterday."

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther called the shooting a "horrible, heartbreaking situation" and said, "We know from this footage that the officer took action to protect another young girl in the community."

Woods said "deadly force can be used to protect yourself or (for) the protection of a third person. ... Whether this complies with that will be part of that investigation."

"We think it's critically important to share as much information as possible, as quickly as possible," Ginther said. "So, we'll continue to share footage, other information in the hours and days ahead."

The mayor also asked anybody with more information on what happened prior to the shooting "to share that information with the appropriate authorities."

Bryant's mother, Paula Bryant, told WBNS she's "very upset. I'm hurt. I want answers."

"My daughter dispatched Columbus police for protection, not to be a homicide today," Paula said with tears in her eyes.

Director of Public Safety Ned Pettus Jr. said Wednesday that he understands the outrage Bryant's family is feeling. "A teenage girl is dead and she is dead at the hands of a police officer," Pettus said. "Under any circumstances, that is a horrendous tragedy."

But Pettus cautioned that "the video shows that there is more to this. It requires us to pause, take a close look at the sequence of events."

"We have to ask ourselves: What information did the officer have? What did he see? How much time did he have to assess the situation?" Pettus said. "And what would have happened if he had taken no action at all?" Ma'Khia was staying at a foster home, Paula said, adding that the two last saw each other on Thursday. "We hugged each other. She said 'Mommy, I made honor roll.' She said 'Mommy, I'm looking forward to coming home,'" Paula said. "Ma'Khia had a motherly nature about her. She promoted peace. That is something that I want to always be remembered," Paula added.

Shortly after the shooting, which occurred around the same time the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin was announced, demonstrators began gathering at the shooting scene and at the Columbus Division of Police's downtown headquarters.

@10TV A look downtown. People are marching through the streets chanting “say her name. Ma’Khia Bryant” pic.twitter.com/q10YOIrnQ0

— Richard 🎥 (@richaaron10tv) April 21, 2021

Democratic Representative Joyce Beatty, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus and whose district includes parts of Columbus, tweeted that she's "at a total loss of words over the tragic killing of 16-year-old Ma'khia Bryant by the Columbus Police. My prayers are with her family and friends. Our community is hurting, has experienced too much heartbreak, and deserves better."

I am at a total loss of words over the tragic killing of 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant by the Columbus Police. My prayers are with her family and friends. Our community is hurting, has experienced too much heartbreak, and deserves better.

— Joyce Beatty (@RepBeatty) April 21, 2021

Victoria Albert and Brian Dakss contributed reporting.

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