Columbus police shot and killed a teenage girl who swung at two other people with a knife Tuesday, according to bodycam footage from the officer who arrived first on the scene.
Officials with the Columbus Division of Police showed a segment of the footage Tuesday night just hours after the shooting took place in a neighborhood 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 violent riots, looting along with destruction of cities and small businesses.
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 regarding an attempted stabbing, saying they were being physically threatened, Interim Police Chief Michael Woods said at the news conference.
A 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 body-cam footage so soon after a police shooting.
Woods stated Wednesday that police had received a 911 call about an attempted stabbing which brought the police officer to the scene. Police had not established as of Wednesday who placed that call.
In that call at 4:32 p.m. Tuesday, screaming can be heard as the caller asks police to come because someone is trying to stab them. A female voice can be heard telling the dispatcher that people are “over here trying to fight us, trying to stab us, trying to put their hands on our grandma”.
“We need a police officer over here now,” the voice says. There are sounds of yelling and confrontation in the background. The police dispatcher attempts to get more information and there is more screaming before the call is suddenly disconnected.
A second 911 call placed around 4:44 p.m. resulted in the caller hanging up upon seeing the first officers in a police cruiser arriving on scene.
Columbus police Officer Nicholas Reardon, hired in December 2019, was identified Wednesday as the officer who shot Bryant.
Reardon’s body camera showed what played out when he arrived at the violent altercation.
Footage from Mr Reardon’s body camera shows him exiting his vehicle and walking up on an apparent confrontation at a home involving multiple women. A handful of people are gathered in the driveway as the officer arrives and steps towards the group.
“What’s going on? What’s going on?” he asks.
Seconds later, one of the women is pushed onto the sidewalk in front of him. Bryant is then seen rushing at another woman, who is dressed in a pink tracksuit. Bryant is brandishing a knife in her right hand, swinging it towards the other female who is pinned against the car.
“Hey, get down, get down, get down!” Mr Reardon shouts, drawing his gun.
Reardon then fires four shots at the armed female, Ma’Khia Bryant, who falls to the ground. A black-handled blade similar to a kitchen or steak knife drops next to her onto the sidewalk.
A man immediately yells at the officer, “You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!” Neighbors gather in the street to criticize the officer.
The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”
Interim Police Chief Michael Woods said Wednesday state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others, and investigators will determine whether this shooting was such an instance.
He issued a final statement at a Wednesday press conference about the shooting death of a 16-year-old girl by an officer: “I wish to hell it hadn’t happened.”
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.