Just after the news of the guilty verdict in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in last year’s killing of George Floyd, a new story of Black death flooded the news. A police officer in Columbus, Ohio, shot a teenage girl, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, Tuesday evening while responding to reports of an attempted stabbing.
There has been a lot of conflicting information about what exactly happened, who called the police, and what Ma’Khia was doing.
One neighbor, identifed as Ira Graham III, said to CNN: “I can certainly see why the police officer chose to stop her. Now, whether or not less lethal force could have been used, whether or not a Taser could have been chosen instead of a gun — I don’t know.”
Others have said that Ma’Khia was using the knife to defend herself because the other girls were attempting to harm her. According to what NPR has heard: “Bryant allegedly called officers at about 4:30 p.m. local time when a group of ‘older kids’ threatened her with assault.”
Regardless, the police brought a gun to a knife fight, and rather than de-escalating the situation, firing a warning shot, or using any sort of non-lethal force, this teenager was shot four times.
“No matter what the circumstances, that family is in agony, and they are in my prayers,” Ned Pettus Jr., the public safety director for the city of Columbus, said during the news conference according to The New York Times. “They deserve answers. Our city deserves answers. I want answers, but fast, quick answers cannot come at the cost of accurate answers.”
“We know, based on this footage, the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community, but a family is grieving tonight and this young 15-year-old girl [sic] will never be coming home,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said at Tuesday night’s news conference. “It’s a tragic day in the city of Columbus. It’s a horrible, heartbreaking situation,” he added. “We felt transparency in sharing this footage, as incomplete as it is at this time” was critical.
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. I said what I said. #MakhiaBryant
— Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk) April 21, 2021
WARNING. How in the hell does this police officer think it’s a good idea to fire shots blindly into a group of teenagers having a fight. Yes one of them has a knife. Oh, that never happened in your school or neighborhood? She didn’t deserve to die. 16 years old. #makhiabryant https://t.co/hnimSwnG7s
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) April 21, 2021
If Dylan Roof, a domestic terrorist, can be non-lethally arrested, why can’t this girl?
Ma’Khia Bryant doesn’t need to be a flawless, perfect, exceptional victim for us to continue to address the overuse of force by the police—a force they seem reluctant to use when white aggressors are committing violence.
Why are we so comfortable with having the police be executioners? It says a lot that suddenly, people are so concerned with the life of the other young girl (who, for the record, I’m glad is unharmed), but that doesn’t erase the fact that the goal should be for both of them to be alive.
Interim Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods said that there were be an investigation: “We want to be sure that independent review from them, that we stay out of their way, and we provide the information that they request from us.”
I wish that empathy and critical thinking on the issues of policing weren’t always concerned with only thinking perfect people deserve due process before being killed.
(via CNN, image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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