Neighbors of the Columbus, Ohio, foster home where Ma’Khia Bryant attacked a girl with a knife on Tuesday said the teen’s death at the hands of police ended a situation where other lives were at risk.
“If the officer hadn’t done what he did, I think we’d have two girls dead,” said Donavon Brinson, who lives across the street from the house and saw the incident through the video footage recorded by his home security system, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
“It was violent and all just happened so fast,” he said.
Brinson said he was aware of an argument brewing.
“They were calling each other the B-word, so I figured it was just a girl fight,” Brinson said, according to The Dispatch.
While he was in the backyard with his dog, he said, the yelling escalated. He went back inside and was there when Officer Nicholas Reardon arrived.
Video from Reardon’s bodycam has shown that Bryant had a knife in her hand and was raising it as if to strike another girl when Reardon fired four shots.
Neighbor Ira Graham III, who works in registration at Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital, heard the gunshots.
“I saw a bunch of cop cars coming down the street,” he told The Dispatch, noting that he witnessed an officer performing CPR on Bryant.
After seeing the bodycam video, Graham said Bryant was a danger to the girl she was attacking.
“I believe in truth and facts. Video doesn’t lie,” he said. “She was in full attack mode.”
Bryant “was literally aiming a knife at this young lady,” Graham said. “She needed to be stopped at that point. That young lady’s life was at stake.”
In another interview, he told CNN that the teenager had to be stopped.
“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,” Graham said.
“But I do know that with Ma’Khia having that lethal weapon in her hand, she did need to be stopped,” he said.
A representative of the Columbus police union said the incident illustrates the complexity of the decisions police officers have to make.
“We have a duty to protect the public and ourselves, certainly, the public,” Keith Ferrell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police’s Capital City Lodge No. 9, said in a video statement, according to WSYX-TV.
“These are the kind of decisions officers are forced to make every day, and with this transparency, the public can see that. As unfortunate as it is, we do not know potentially how many lives could have been lost in addition or people seriously injured,” he said.
That logic was lost on some activists.
Crowd of #Ohio State University students hold a sit-in to demand the school cut ties with #Columbus Police Department over the fatal police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl. pic.twitter.com/GFTCPLGXQU
— WatchTower (@WatchTowerGW) April 22, 2021
“As soon as he got out of the car, he had the gun ready to shoot somebody,” Kiara Yakita, founder and president of Black Liberation Movement Central Ohio, told The Washington Post. “Law enforcement and city officials are rushing to make excuses because she had a knife. Those excuses are not valid to me.”
But experts in the use of force say Reardon was justified.
“My first impression is that the officer was legally justified in using deadly force,” Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University professor, told The Dispatch.
“It’s a terribly tragic situation, and my heart goes out to the girl and her family and friends,” he said. “But from looking at the video, it appears to me that a reasonable police officer would have had a reasonable apprehension of an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death being imposed against an officer or someone else. That’s the legal standard.”
The woke calculus of our day is that, in Columbus, society esteems the life of the attempted murderer more than the life of the rescued victim. Better that an unarmed woman be stabbed to death than an attacking woman be shot to death, if the shooting is done by a police officer.
— Bob Lonsberry (@BobLonsberry) April 22, 2021
James Scanlon, a retired Columbus SWAT officer who serves as an expert witness regarding the use of force, also supported Reardon’s actions.
“An officer is justified in using deadly force if his life or the life of someone else is at risk,” Scanlon said. “Few would argue that there weren’t at least two lives there that were at serious risk.”
Reardon acted “to save the life of someone he doesn’t even know,” he said.
“It’s a shame that no one has recognized that that officer, in all likelihood, saved one or more lives,” Scanlon said.
CORRECTION, April 29, 2020: An earlier version of this article and its headlines included an incorrect spelling of Ma’Khia Bryant’s first name. We apologize to our readers for the error.
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