Protests Fill Downtown Columbus Streets After Police Killing Of Ma'Khia Bryant

Protesters were back on the streets of Columbus Tuesday night – not in the name of George Floyd and the guilty verdict for the former Minneapolis police officer who killed him, but because as that verdict was being read, a Columbus police officer fatally shot a Black teenager outside her home after she called the police for help on Tuesday afternoon.

The fatal shooting occurred seconds after officers arrived at the scene of a reported disturbance on Legion Lane on Columbus’ Southeast side.

The girl has been identified as Ma’Khia Bryant by her aunt, Hazel Bryant.

Bryant allegedly called officers at about 4:30 p.m. local time when a group of “older kids” threatened her with assault, her aunt told Ohio Statehouse News Bureau reporter Andy Chow. She did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.

The Columbus Police Department could not confirm on Tuesday whether Bryant was the one to call for assistance before she was shot. Police on Tuesday also declined to release the name of the officer who killed Bryant.

Body camera footage released by police shows several people fighting in a driveway. The video shows Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, pushing one person to the ground before appearing to swing a knife at another person.

The police officer yells “get down” repeatedly and fires four shots, hitting Bryant.

Bryant was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, where she later died.

Few other details have been released, including information about what happened just before the footage started.

Bryant’s death came just after the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd.

Columbus activist Karla Carey said Black people can’t celebrate before having to mourn again.

“So as much as I’m glad about the George Floyd verdict, to find out that a 16-year-old girl gets killed because she called for help… it’s disturbing, it’s heartbreaking. Enough is enough,” Carey said.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) will investigate the shooting.

“If an officer has violated a policy or the law... they will be held accountable,” Columbus Director of Public Safety Ned Pettus said. “Our city deserves answers. I want answers. But fast, quick answers cannot come at the cost of accurate answers.”

Interim Chief of Police Michael Woods told reporters the officer will be pulled off patrol duty as BCI looks into the shooting. He also said that under the Columbus Police Department's policy, officers can use deadly force to protect themselves or a third person.

Woods would not say whether the officer violated the department's standards or use of force rules. That will be decided later during an administrative review, and it will be done only after the Bureau of Criminal Investigation concludes its own investigation.

Woods cautioned that the shooting is still very new and “we are still gathering information.”

City officials said the body camera footage was shared hours after the shooting for “transparency.” But they noted that the footage they shared with the media had been edited and was incomplete

News of the police shooting also drew protesters downtown and to the Columbus Police Department headquarters, where many chanted for Bryant's name to be called.

“Say her name! Ma'Khia Bryant!” they yelled outside the station.

Statehouse News Bureau Reporter Andy Chow and NPR contributed to this report.

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