Columbus police shot and killed a teenage girl, Ma’Khia Bryant, who swung at two other people with a knife Tuesday, according to bodycam footage from the officer who fired the shots just minutes before the verdict in George Floyd’s killing was read.
Officials with the Columbus Division of Police showed a segment of the footage Tuesday night just hours after the shooting took place in a neighbourhood on the city’s East Side. The decision to swiftly release the video was 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.
The 10-second clip begins with the officer getting out of his car at a house where police had been dispatched after someone called 911 saying they were being physically threatened, Interim Police Chief Michael Woods said at the news conference. The officer takes a few steps toward a group of people in the driveway when the girl, who was Black, starts swinging a knife wildly at another girl or woman, who falls backward. The officer shouts several times to get down.
The girl with the knife 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 the teen 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.
The girl was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. It remains unclear if anyone else was injured.
Police hadn’t identified the girl or her age Tuesday. One family member said she was 15, while another said she was 16.
The shooting happened minutes before the verdict in the killing of George Floyd was announced. Protesters who had gathered peacefully after that verdict to call for police reform and accountability quickly shifted their focus to the killing of the girl. The crowd of about 100 could be heard chanting outside police headquarters as city officials offered their condolences to the family and acknowledged the rarity of showing bodycam footage so soon after a police shooting.
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.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther mourned the loss of the young victim but 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.
Meanwhile, outside the briefing, hundreds of protesters pushed past barriers outside police headquarters and approached officers as city officials were showing the bodycam video inside. Many chanted, “Say her name!” While others signified the victim’s age by yelling, “she was just a kid!” Officers with bicycles pushed protesters back and threatened to deploy pepper spray on the crowd.
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 Floyd. It also took place less than 5 miles 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 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 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.
Kimberly Shepherd, 50, who has lived in the neighbourhood where Tuesday’s shooting took place for 17 years, said she knew the teenage victim.
“The neighbourhood has definitely went through its changes, but nothing like this,” Shepherd said of the shooting. “This is the worst thing that has ever happened out here and unfortunately it is at the hands of police.”
Shepherd and her neighbour Jayme Jones, 51, had celebrated the guilty verdict of Chauvin. But things changed quickly, she said.
“We were happy about the verdict. But you couldn’t even enjoy that,” Shepherd said. “Because as you’re getting one phone call that he was guilty, I’m getting the next phone call that this is happening in my neighbourhood.”
Celebrities such as Beyonce, Lili Reinhart, George Takei, Bernice King, Justin Timberlake and more reacted to the shooting.
Beyonce wrote a tribute to the teen on her website, posting a photo along with the text: “We mourn the young life of Ma’Khia Bryant.”
We cannot have even a moment of justice before another Black life is taken by the police, this time a teen named Ma’khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio who had called them for help.
Instead, they shot her four times. We must end police terror.#BlackLivesMatter
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) April 21, 2021
My heart breaks for this angel’s mother. Ma’Khia Bryant… your name will be remembered. Let’s honor her tonight https://t.co/VKJkRIfwHH
— Lili Reinhart (@lilireinhart) April 21, 2021
Love and comfort to the Floyd family.
Peace and blessings to Gianna Floyd.
Emotional healing to Darnella Frazier.
Prayers for Ma’Khia Bryant’s family.
Hope and grace to each of you.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) April 21, 2021
her name was ma’khia bryant https://t.co/jnCLjCWSj4
— Maggie Rogers (@maggierogers) April 21, 2021
16 year old Ma’Khia Bryant murdered by police in Columbus Ohio. This is beyond sad.
— The Game (@thegame) April 21, 2021
Say her name, #MaKhiaBryant.
— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) April 21, 2021
Paula, the mother of sixteen-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, speaks out after being allegedly killed by police. Roommates, let’s keep Ma’Khia’s loved ones in our prayers 🙏🏽 https://t.co/WPkGeAiiz7
— TheShadeRoom (@TheShadeRoom) April 21, 2021
“Ma’Khia had a motherly nature about her. She promoted peace,” said the 16 year-old girl’s mother, Paula. pic.twitter.com/vhBauZn3Kc
— Lacey Crisp (@LaceyCrisp) April 21, 2021