COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Division of Police released body camera footage Tuesday night showing the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant that occurred earlier in the day. Wednesday afternoon, police released additional body cam recordings and two 911 calls.
Interim Chief of Police Michael Woods said it’s uncommon for information to be provided this soon, but officials understand the public’s need, desire and expectation to have transparency about what happened.
The Wednesday press conference can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube. Warning: at the 4:30 mark in the video, body camera footage begins. The video is graphic and disturbing – it shows the full shooting that led to My’Khia Bryant’s death. It is not suitable for all audiences.
During the first 911 call, the caller can be heard saying there are girls “trying to fight us, trying to stab us, trying to put hands on our grandma” and requesting that police “get here now!”
The second 911 call requested police be dispatch but the caller then said “nevermind, the police are already out here.”
The first body camera video is from the shooting officer Nicholas Reardon. It shows him arriving at the scene where multiple people are outside a house, some in the driveway. Seconds after Reardon exits his cruiser Bryant is seen attacking one female who falls to the ground. Then, Bryant approaches a second female backed against a car, raising her knife-wielding right hand at the second female – that’s when Reardon discharges four rounds at Bryant.
Bryant immediately falls and slumps against the vehicle.
“She had a knife. She just went at her,” Reardon can be heard saying.
A knife can be seen next to Bryant’s body as Reardon approaches her. Officers tried to revive her.
Ninety seconds after shots were fired medics were requested at the scene. Six minutes after shots were fired medics arrived and performed life-saving measures, according to Woods. Bryant was taken to Mount Carmel East where she was pronounced dead.
A second body camera video came from Officer Serge Akpolo and shows both females Bryant attacked. The first said “she just hit at me. I just got here.”
The second female, who was being attacked when Bryant was shot, said “that’s why the police did it. She came after me.” Akpolo asked – with a knife? The female responded, “so he got her.”
Tuesday Wood said police officers may lawfully use lethal force to protect themselves or others from what is reasonably believed to be an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.
Officer Reardon has been taken off streets and the investigation is ongoing with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) – Ohio Attorney General’s office.
“It’s a tragic day in the city of Columbus. It’s a horrible, heartbreaking situation,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said on Tuesday. “We know based on this footage the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community.”
Franklin County Children Services said Bryant was a foster child in their care.
Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettis said the incident is a “horrendous tragedy” but that “there’s more to this.” He asked the public to be patient. “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.”
The incident occurred around 4:45 p.m. EST, shortly before a jury in Minneapolis found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, Jr. The killing rocketed racial tensions in Minneapolis and around the nation last summer. Consequently, protesters filled streets, sometimes becoming violent to police officers and bystanders, while vandalizing and burning buildings.
Bryant’s shooting triggered an immediate response as protests broke out around the city on Tuesday – in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, at a Columbus police station and outside the Ohio Statehouse. Protests in Columbus are ongoing.
Although the public was asked to forego a rush to judgement, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) couldn’t help himself.
Brown tweeted “[w]hile the verdict was being read in the Derek Chauvin trial, Columbus police shot and killed a sixteen-year-old girl. Her name was Ma’Khia Bryant. She should be alive right now. #Makhiabryant
While the verdict was being read in the Derek Chauvin trial, Columbus police shot and killed a sixteen-year-old girl.
Her name was Ma’Khia Bryant. She should be alive right now. #MaKhiaBryanthttps://t.co/8SBdK4mxlE
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) April 21, 2021
U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, who took a swing at a law enforcement officer last summer, tweeted, “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.”
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
Ohio State Representative and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes tweeted, “15 years old. A child.”
15 years old. A child.
— Emilia Sykes (@EmiliaSykesOH) April 20, 2021
Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin posted a string of tweets, one stating, “While the Chauvin verdict was a moment of accountability, it coincided with another instance of deadly force. This is not right, this is not ok, and this can’t continue.”
As we watched the verdict from Minneapolis, many talked about a sigh of relief. However, there is no relief for so many in our community, and Columbus knows this first hand. 1/5
— Shannon Hardin (@SG_Hardin) April 21, 2021
Qatar outlet Al Jazeera Media Network’s AJ+ speculated that Bryant was defending herself while shot by police, “Columbus police killed a Black teenage girl after a call about someone with a knife. Family identify her as #MakhiaBryant. They told @thedailybeast she called 911 when adults began an altercation at her foster home and was trying to defend herself. Police shot at her 4 times.”
Columbus police killed a Black teenage girl after a call about someone with a knife.
Family identify her as #MakhiaBryant.
They told @thedailybeast she called 911 when adults began an altercation at her foster home, and was trying to defend herself. Police shot at her 4 times. pic.twitter.com/4RrkNdJb4f
— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 21, 2021
The White House, through Press Secretary Jen Psaki, called the shooting “tragic” and that it occurred “just as America was hopeful of a step forward.” She continued, “She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family, in the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss.”
Wednesday Ginther called the shooting a breakdown in community responsibility.
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. BCI will determine if the officer involved was wrong. And if he was, we will hold him accountable, as we have other officers who have committed wrongdoing criminally, or in violation of the policies and procedures of the Division of Police. Transparency, accountability, absolutely critical to our community during this time of crisis. We have a bigger societal question. How do we, as a city and a community, come together to ensure that our kids never feel the need to resort to violence as a means of solving disputes or in order to protect themselves? We remain committed to ensuring accountability in all violent interactions between police and our neighbors. The BCI investigation is the first step in unraveling what led to the tragic death of yet another child in our community.
Retired Columbus Division of Police officer Jim Scanlon, who served 33 years in law enforcement including 19 years on SWAT, appeared Wednesday on the Mark Blazor radio show, which airs on AM 610 WTVN in Columbus.
Scanlon called officer Reardon’s actions “heroic,” noting that he defended the life of an unknown person at a time when police actions are under scrutiny and viewed with prejudice by politicians. Scanlon said the shots fired were “textbook,” that officers are trained to fire at the center of a person who poses an imminent threat to another person – tasering or shooting in the leg are ineffective measures that would not have neutralized this imminent threat, according to Scanlon. Blazor then wondered how City Council President Hardin or Senator Brown would react if the woman pinned against the car, who had a knife inches from her head and neck, was a daughter to one of them.
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Jack Windsor is Statehouse Reporter at The Ohio Star. Windsor is also an independent investigative reporter. Follow Jack on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].