Columbus Police Release Body-Camera Footage of Fatal Shooting of Black Teen

Blake Montgomery, Chris Bournea
·5 min read
Screenshot/NBC 4
Screenshot/NBC 4

COLUMBUSHours after crowds in Minneapolis celebrated the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, a protest erupted in this Ohio city after a police officer shot and killed a Black teenage girl who appears to have lunged at someone with a knife during a brawl.

In an unusual move, Columbus police quickly released bodycam footage of officers responding to a 911 call about an attempted stabbing and encountering three females fighting.

The video shows the teen wielding a knife as she rushes toward another girl. An officer yells “Get down! Get down!” then fires four shots as the girl swings at another with the knife.

Ma’khia Bryant, 16 years old, collapsed to the ground. A man can be heard yelling, “She’s just a fucking kid, man!”

The officers tended to Bryant and called for a medic, authorities said. She was transported to a nearby hospital, Mount Carmel East, but died of her injuries.

The department has contacted the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to review the officer’s use of deadly force, and the officer will be “taken off the street,” interim Police Chief Michael Woods told reporters at a press conference.

“This is a tragic incident for all involved but especially for the family of the female,” Woods said. He said he could not answer a question about what efforts to de-escalate the situation were made apart from the officer firing his gun, saying he had not interviewed the officer involved.

Police have not yet commented on video that emerged overnight showing a a police officer shouting “blue lives matter” to a group of upset residents at the scene in the aftermath of the shooting.

The bodycam video was released Tuesday night after members of Bryant’s family spoke to reporters and accused police of killing someone who was trying to defend herself against the other girls—and as protesters took to the streets.

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“She was a good kid. She was loving,” Hazel Bryant, who said the child was her niece, told reporters. “She didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street.”

Bryant said her niece had been living in a foster home on the east side of Columbus, where the fatal shooting took place. She said several adult women had come to the foster home and started an altercation with the teenager, who called police, and her biological father and grandmother for help. She grabbed a knife to defend herself, Bryant said.

Bryant, who said she had been told of the events by Ma’Khia’s grandmother and father, said Ma’khia was in front of the house fending off a physical assault when police arrived.

“The police are going to lie. I’m so thankful that someone from the family was actually on the scene,” Bryant said before the release of the bodycam footage.

“The police are going to lie. The police are going to cover up for themselves. They don’t care. At this point, I feel like they’re just out to kill Black people. They’re not here to protect and serve. That isn’t happening. That’s been over a long time ago. They’re not here to protect and serve. They’re here to kill Black folks.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Bryant’s great-grandmother Ila compared Ma’khia’s death to that of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed during a raid on her Louisville apartment in March 2020.

“It looks to me like that’s what the police wanted to do, to kill her. I’m just trying to figure out why,” Ila Bryant said. “We have to remember that we should love each other.”

Her mother, Paula Bryant, told 10 WBNS, “She was a very loving, peaceful little girl. She was an honor-roll student, and Ma’khia had a motherly nature about her. She promoted peace.”

About 100 people gathered in downtown Columbus late Tuesday to protest the shooting. They chanted “Say her name! Ma’khia Bryant!” and “Black Lives Matter!”

Hana Abbur-Rahim, the lead organizer of Black Abolitionist Collective Ohio, told The Daily Beast the shooting was proof of an alarming trend.

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“It’s important to recognize that Black women are being killed by the police. Why can’t we be safe in our own homes?” she said.

Speaking at the Tuesday night press conference, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther called the shooting a “heartbreaking situation.”

“The city of Columbus lost a 15-year-old girl. We know based on this footage the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community. But a family’s grieving tonight, and this young 15-year-old girl will never be coming home,” he told reporters, before county officials confirmed the teen’s age as 16.

The killing occurred just as the verdict was being announced in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed, 46-year-old Black man, in May 2020.

Local Columbus activist K.C. Taynor of Exodus Nation told The Daily Beast the latest police killing made it impossible to celebrate the Chauvin verdict.

“It’s another murder,” he said. “They’re animals. They treat us like animals.”

Editor’s note: This report has been updated throughout. Franklin County Children Services officials confirmed the spelling of the girl’s name as Ma’Khia Bryant, and that she was 16 years old. Earlier reports from Columbus officials and family members had an incorrect spelling of her first name and age.

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