On April 20, 2021, former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts for murdering George Floyd last summer. The world had finally witnessed the arc of the moral universe slightly bend toward justice. But the deep sighs of relief were soon met with a new trauma when word broke, just minutes later, that cops in Columbus, Ohio had gunned down a Black teen girl. Her name was Ma’Khia Bryant.
The following day, two 911 calls related to the incident were released, as well as the body cam footage. In the first 911 call, you can hear a lot of commotion and yelling in the background, as the caller gives the address of the incident and says, “We got these grown girls over here tryna fight us, tryna stab us, tryna put her hands on our grandma! Get here now … We need a police officer here now!” Then, the call ends. In the second call, a woman provides the location, and then, seeing police already on scene says, “Never mind. The police are already out here.”
As for the body cam footage, it shows an officer arriving to the location of an already-in-progress altercation between three girls. At one point, the video shows Ma’Khia raising a knife to another girl backed against a parked car, and soon after, a white male officer, recently identified as Officer Nicholas Reardon, can be seen standing behind the girls yelling “Get down! Get down!” right before shooting Ma’Khia four times in the chest. You can hear a man in the background scream, “No! You ain’t shoot my f—ing baby! You shot my baby!” We will not be linking the video here because it is quite graphic and distressing.
But why was lethal force the cop’s way of stopping the situation? Why weren’t other de-escalation tactics used? Why is it that police are able to apprehend white mass murderers alive in the process of them committing mass murder, but the only way they can figure out how to break up a fight involving a Black teen girl is to shoot her dead?
Information regarding this incident is still pouring in, and reports from Ma’Khia’s family suggest the first 911 call was actually made by Ma’Khia and that she had a knife in an attempt to defend herself until help arrived. This information tracks with what was said in the 911 call, as Ma’Khia’s father and grandmother were apparently at the scene. Ma’Khia’s aunt Hazel Bryant told The Daily Beast that Ma’Khia had been living in foster care, and that home is where the shooting took place. “I’m so thankful that someone from the family was actually on the scene,” Hazel said in her interview. “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.”
To make things that much worse, a bystander captured a video of someone shouting “Blue Lives Matter” in the immediate aftermath of the police killing another Black person. It has not been made clear how Ma’Khia got the knife — whether she took control of it from someone who was coming for her or obtained it another way.
Regardless, Ma’Khia Bryant did not deserve to die. Period.