Whether lying in a hospital bed like Miles Jackson or innocently playing in a park like Tamir Rice, it seems like there are few places Black people in Ohio are completely safe from getting gunned down by cops playing judge, jury, and executioner. In the case of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, she was right outside her foster home when she was shot while defending herself during a fight.
On Friday, the AP reports a grand jury cleared Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon of any criminal charges in fatally shooting the teenage girl. Franklin County appointed prosecutors Tim Merkle and Gary Shroyer to conduct the investigation and present the case in court. Merkle and Sroyer explained during the announcement that the circumstances of the fight and knife in Ma’Khia’s hand justified the use of deadly force. “Under Ohio law, the use of deadly force by a police officer is justified when there exists an immediate or imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another.”
How did Reardon explain using deadly force within moments of arriving instead of deescalating or using non-lethal alternatives like a stun gun? “At the time I fired my weapon, I was in fear for the life of the female in pink,” he said about Shai-onta Craig, the grown woman who was in a confrontation with Ma’Khia at the time of the shooting. We’ve seen time and time again that police manage to safely capture armed White assailants, but once cops start talking about “fear” of the Black person they killed, it’s like a “get out of jail free” card.
Reardon is also an expert marksman so killing Bryant in cold blood with four shots to the back, torso, shoulder and right thigh was still a very deliberate choice. Although the Columbus cop is an Air Force veteran, according to the AP, Reardon claimed he was also afraid of the 16-year-old Black girl.
“Reardon told investigators he didn’t think using mace or a ‘hands-on’ approach would have worked because of the knife in Bryant’s hand, because he thought he was the only officer on scene and because Bryant appeared much bigger than him.”
Attorney Michelle Martin released a statement on behalf of the heartbroken Bryant family, putting the blame on both the officer and the system that was supposed to have Ma’Khia in its custody to ensure that she was safe and protected.
“Ma’Khia’s family has long wondered why this officer opted for lethal force even though there should have been other non-deadly options available to deal with this situation. We believe that the tragedy that ultimately resulted in Ma’Khia’s death started long before she was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer. There must be full-scale changes made to Ohio’s foster care system to ensure that this doesn’t happen to another child,” Martin said.
“We need to work tirelessly to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society. Ohio’s foster care system is failing our children and we cannot stand by and allow this to continue. As the one-year anniversary of Ma’Khia’s death approaches, her family is resolute in their fight for justice on her behalf.”
The system failed Ma’Khia one last time when Ohio Attorney General David Yost released a statement where they didn’t even spell her name name correctly.
Both the Columbus PD and Justice Department will conduct investigations into department policies and whether Reardon violated any of them, but after the grand jury’s decision, he will be back on the streets.