The fatal police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager seen on video charging at two people with a knife, came within minutes of the verdict in George Floyd’s killing – causing outrage by some over the continued use of lethal force by Columbus police.
Officials with the Columbus Division of Police released initial footage of the shooting Tuesday night just hours after it happened, a departure from protocol as the force faces immense scrutiny from the public following a series of recent high-profile police killings that have led to clashes.
Body camera footage from the other officers on the scene was released during a briefing with city officials on Wednesday.
Bryant was identified by Franklin County Children Services and police to be 16 years old and in foster care at the time of her death.
“It’s a tragedy. There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old. I’m a father,” Interim Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods told reporters Wednesday. “Her family is grieving. Regardless of the circumstances associated with this, a 16-year-old lost her life yesterday.”
He added, “I sure as hell wish it wouldn’t have happened.”
The killing has caused an outcry in the community and nationwide as Ms. Bryant’s killing is the second high-profile fatal shooting of a teenager by police in the last month. Body camera footage released last week showed an officer shoot and kill 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the Columbus shooting “tragic” and said President Joe Biden has been briefed on it.
“She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family and the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss,” Ms. Psaki said in a statement.
She added that the White House’s focus is “to address systemic racism and implicit bias head on” by passing legislation on “much-needed” police reforms.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also watched the footage of Ms. Bryant’s killing, calling it a tragedy.
“Any time anyone is killed, it’s a tragedy. Any time a teenager, a child, is killed, it’s a horrible tragedy,” the Republican governor said during a briefing.
He added that while the public has the video evidence, “we need to let the investigation play out.”
The 10-second body camera clip begins with the officer getting out of his car at a house where police had been dispatched after some had called 911 saying they were being physically threatened, Chief Woods said. It remains unclear who called the police.
The officer takes a few steps toward a group of people in the driveway when Ms. Bryant starts swinging a knife wildly at another girl or woman, who falls backward. The officer shouts several times to get down.
Ms. Bryant then charges at another girl or woman, who is pinned against a car.
From a few feet away, with people on either side of him, the officer fires four shots, and Ms. Bryant slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade similar to a kitchen knife or steak knife lies on the sidewalk next to her.
A man immediately yells at the officer, “You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!”
The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”
The race of the officer wasn’t clear and he was taken off patrolling the streets for the time being.
Ms. Bryant was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. Police did not say if anyone else was injured.
In the moments after the shooting, people living or visiting the street filmed as police roped off the area with yellow tape in front of the house where the shooting took place.
A neighbour’s video shows an officer performing CPR on the teenager while a man can be heard yelling, “You all just jumped out of the (expletive) car and shot her!”
Neighbours stood in open doorways filming and behind cars shaking their heads, eyewitness footage showed.
Chief Woods said state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others, and investigators will determine whether this shooting was such an instance.
Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now reviewing the killing following an agreement with the city last summer for all police shootings to be handled by the independent investigators under Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.
While Mayor Andrew Ginther mourned the loss of the young victim Tuesday night, he defended the officer’s use of deadly force.
“We know based on this footage the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community,” he told reporters.
The shooting happened about 25 minutes before a judge read the verdict convicting former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the killing of Mr. Floyd. It also took place less than 8 kilometres from where the funeral for Andre Hill, who was killed by another Columbus police officer in December, was held earlier this year. The officer in Mr. Hill’s case, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the force, is now facing trial for murder, with the next hearing scheduled for April 28.
Less than three weeks before Mr. Hill was killed, a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr. in Columbus. The case remains under federal investigation.
Last week, Columbus police shot and killed a man who was in a hospital emergency room with a gun on him. Officials are continuing an investigation into that shooting.
On Wednesday, Mr. DeWine detailed upcoming legislation to boost police accountability in the state and overhaul policing. The effort was initially introduced in another form with Attorney General Yost in the days after Mr. Floyd’s killing.
The new bill, to be introduced by GOP State Rep. Phil Plummer, of Dayton, would, among other things, establish an oversight board for law enforcement in the state. Mr. DeWine said the goal of the legislation is to increase transparency in the profession.
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