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An Ohio police officer shot and killed a Black teenage girl, who authorities said had lunged with a knife at another teen, less than half an hour before jurors delivered their verdict in the George Floyd case, sparking a new round of protests in the city of Columbus.
Columbus Police released body cam footage of the shooting that killed the teen—who has been identified by The Columbus Dispatch as 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant—Tuesday night in what interim Police Chief Michael Woods described as an “unprecedented” move to increase transparency.
“Normally, we don’t provide information this soon, but we understand the public’s need and desire and expectation to have transparency upon what happened,” Woods said during a press conference Tuesday.
Woods said officers were called to the residential area around 4:36 p.m. Tuesday afternoon after receiving a 911 call about a fight in progress.
“The information was that a caller said females were there that were trying to stab them and put their hands on them,” he said.
The video shows an officer, whose identity has not yet been released, pulling up to a house with a group of teenagers in the front yard.
Bryant is seen lunging at another female who falls to the ground before she turns and appears to begin attacking another teen pushed against the hood of a car.
The officer can be heard shouting “get down” before a succession of four gunshots goes off and Bryant slumps to the ground against the car.
“She had a knife, she just went at her,” the officer said after the gunfire.
Other first responders immediately stepped in to perform life-saving efforts, but the teen was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. A knife can be seen laying on the ground near her as the emergency responders attempted to treat her.
“The city of Columbus lost a 15-year-old girl,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said at the press conference. “You know, based on this footage, the officer took actions to protect another young girl in our community, but a family is grieving tonight. This young 15-year-old girl will never be coming home.”
Although Ginther and other public officials referred to Bryant as being 15, a spokeswoman for Franklin County Children’s Services and the victim’s family have said she was 16 at the time of her death and had been in foster care, according to the local paper.
Bryant’s aunt, Hazel Bryant, told reporters after the shooting that several women had come to the foster home where her niece had been staying at the time when the fight broke out and she had grabbed a knife to defend herself.
“She was a good kid. She was loving,” Hazel Bryant said, according to The Daily Beast. “She didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street.”
She insisted her niece had dropped the knife before the fatal shots were fired, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
The teen’s grandmother and father had reportedly been at the scene at the time of the shooting—something Hazel Bryant said she was “so thankful” about.
“The police are going to lie,” she said, according to The Daily Beast. “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.”
Ma’Khia’s mother Paula described her daughter to local station WBNS-TV as an honor roll student who was “loving” and “peaceful.”
“Ma’Khia had a motherly nature about her. She promoted peace and that’s something that I always want to be remembered,” she said.
In the aftermath of the shooting, footage on social media has emerged showing one of the officers shouting “Blue Lives Matter” at shocked onlookers who arrived at the scene, according to The Daily Beast.
The shooting sparked protests in Columbus Tuesday night as demonstrators held “Black Lives Matter” signs and addressed the gathering crowd through megaphones.
“We don’t get to celebrate nothing,” K.C. Taynor said referencing the guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd case earlier that day, according to the local paper. “In the end, you know what, you can’t be Black.”
Woods said the officer who shot the teen has been taken off the streets while an independent investigation into the shooting is conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He declined to comment on whether the officer’s actions aligned with department policy, citing the ongoing investigation.
Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr. urged the public to be patient as the investigation into the shooting, which he called a “tragedy,” continues to unfold.
“The death of a 15-year-old child is devastating. She could be my grandchild. My heart breaks for the family,” he said at the press conference. “No matter what the circumstances, that family is in agony and they are in my prayers. They deserve answers, the city deserves answers, I want answers, but fast quick answers cannot come at the cost of accurate answers.”
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