At the same time that verdicts were being read in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, police in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed a 16-year-old Black girl named Ma’Khia Bryant.
911 operators received a call at 4:35 pm, reported The Columbus Dispatch. Police responded, and 10 minutes after that call was made, an officer shot Bryant four times. She was pronounced dead at 5:21 pm.
Hazel Bryant, Ma’Khia Bryant’s aunt, spoke with a number of news outlets about the killing of her niece. She said Ma’Khia had made the 911 call and grabbed a knife in self defense after an altercation with someone else at her home left her feeling unsafe.
Police claim they have not yet confirmed that Ma’Khia was the one who called 911.
Paula Bryant, Ma’Khia’s mother, also spoke to reporters about her daughter’s death.
“She was a very loving, peaceful, little girl,” Paula Bryant said. “She was 16 years old, she was an honor roll student. Ma’Khia had a very motherly nature about her. She promoted peace.”
Demonstrators gathered at the scene of the shooting on Tuesday night, expressing grief and outrage at the killing, which came in close proximity to the announcement that Chauvin had been found guilty of three counts of murder and manslaughter for his killing of George Floyd last May.
“It is absolutely devastating,” said Malissa Thomas-St. Clair, founder of Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children. “I’m driving home from an appointment in elation, honking my horn in jubilation, filled with hope, and thinking there’s maybe a turn that the nation deserves. And then, simultaneously, all of those feelings of positivity, brought down to devastation, in the blink of an eye.”
Brittney Cooper, an author, activist and professor at Rutgers University, also expressed anger over the news of Bryant’s death.
“We couldn’t even revel in our bit of relief for George Floyd without news that Columbus police killed [Bryant],” Cooper wrote in a tweet. “We don’t just want you to convict police. We want you to stop killing Black people! That is what we want!”
Meanwhile activist Leslie Mac wrote: “Just as we awaited this jury verdict” in the Chauvin trial, “this baby was murdered by the police who she called for help.”
Officials in Columbus made the unusual move to release the body camera footage just hours after the incident occurred. Interim Police Chief Michael Woods explained that doing so was necessary to address the public’s “desire and expectation to have transparency.”
Footage of the incident appears to show a fight happening outside of a home. A pair of teenagers, one identified to be Ma’Khia Bryant, tumble to the ground as police arrive. Bryant gets back up and engages with another person present, and raises her hand up while holding a knife. A police officer shoots Bryant four times. Bryant falls to the ground, and people can be heard screaming in the background.
“She’s a f—ing kid, man,” one person can be heard shouting to the officers.
After the body camera footage was released, grassroots organizer and abolitionist Bree Newsome Bass decried Ma’Khia’s killing as another clear example of the racist double standards that police use in deciding when to use deadly force.
“Black ppl holding any object in their hand or reaching for any object — even if it’s only the police officer’s imagination — is grounds for deadly force. White men gouging out a cop’s eyes, attacking cops with bear spray, throwing [a] fire extinguisher at a cop … no need to shoot,” Newsome Bass tweeted, referring to the January 6 attack of the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of Trump supporters.
“If deadly force wasn’t necessary during 1/6 attack — except for one instance where a woman attempted to break thru a barrier after repeated warnings — then it wasn’t necessary in any of these cases involving Black & brown victims that have made headlines in recent yrs,” Newsome Bass said, concluding her second tweet with the hashtag #makhiabryant.