Why It Matters That The Officer That Killed Ma’Khia Bryant Had A Military Background

Lydia Wang
·4 min read

On Tuesday, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, in a rare instance of a white police officer facing prison time for killing a Black person. But moments before the verdict was announced, another white officer — Nicholas Reardon of Columbus, OH — shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old girl who had called police for help on Tuesday afternoon. Reardon has since been placed on paid leave.

Reardon now joins the ranks of many white officers who have killed Black and brown people in recent years and months. Unlike Chauvin, officers like Jonathan Mattingly, who was involved in killing Breonna Taylor, or Kim Potter, who killed Daunte Wright, don’t face criminal charges — despite often having a history of racism and violence.

So, who exactly is the officer who shot and killed a 16-year-old girl four times? Reardon graduated from Bishop Watterson Catholic School in Columbus in 2016. A former classmate, who spoke to Refinery29 and requested to remain anonymous, confirmed that he first attended another Catholic high school in Ohio before transferring to BWCS halfway through his senior year. According to the classmate, he was “never a ‘think on your feet’ guy” but “a scrawny white kid with anger management issues.” He joined the Columbus Division of Police in 2019.

According to The Daily Beast, Reardon appears to be the son of Sgt. Edward Reardon, who was on the Columbus Police for 32 years before retiring in 2020. Sgt. Reardon was also the basic training sergeant at the Columbus Police Academy, where he trained over 700 officers, according to a tribute post from the Columbus Police.

Nicholas Reardon also appears to be a trained military marksman. A U.S. Air Force National Guard Airman, Reardon graduated from basic training after completing an “intensive,” eight-week program that taught “military discipline and studies,” Air Force values, and basic fitness skills and principles. As noted by The Daily Beast, a Twitter account linked to his high school posted a slew of updates on his training.

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The Columbus Police released Reardon’s bodycam footage on Tuesday, but they did not initially name him as the shooting officer. The next day, the department shared a recording of Ma’Khia’s original phone call and further video footage of the shooting. “We need a police officer here now,” a girl says in the 911 recording, according to NPR. “We got these… grown girls over here, trying to fight us.”

In the footage, Reardon arrives alone at the scene and repeatedly asks what is going on as Ma’Khia fights with two girls. “Get down,” he shouts, before shooting Ma’Khia four times until she falls to the ground. Bystanders begin shouting that he didn’t need to use his gun and that Ma’Khia was just a child. Reardon responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”

The entire incident took place over the course of just 10 seconds.

“A Black girl is dead because the cops brought a gun to a damn knife fight. If you don’t know how to de-escalate teen girls who are fighting, you should not be a police officer,” Dr. Brittney Cooper, an author and Rutgers University professor, wrote on Twitter. “This is why our movements keep asking us to reimagine public safety and to defund the police. Because the cops act like the only tool they have is a goddamn gun. And that’s a failure of both competence and imagination.”

Columbus’ Interim Police Chief Michael Woods said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation will conduct an “independent and transparent” investigation into the shooting. What is clear, though, is that Reardon should be dismissed as an officer. When he shot Ma’Khia four times — which happened in the wake of several other police killings, and in the midst of the highly publicized Chauvin trial — he proved that this is far from a trend of isolated incidents. He proved that even officers with the most training, and a military background, are still the ones shooting Black and brown people, even children. He proved that this isn’t a case of “one bad apple” — this is a problem within our police system.

“For the second time in less than a week, we are collectively mourning a child killed by the police,” the ACLU wrote in a statement. “We’ll say it again. A system that kills children with impunity cannot be reformed.”

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