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Ohio police fatally shoot 16-year-old girl after call about knife attack

NBC News logo NBC News 4/21/2021 Phil Helsel and Elisha Fieldstadt and Tim Fitzsimons

A Columbus, Ohio, police officer fatally shot a teen girl Tuesday afternoon while responding to a call about someone armed with a knife, officials said.

Portions of officer body camera footage shown by police hours after the incident appeared to show the girl attempting to stab another female just before the gunfire.

After the shooting, there appears to be a knife lying on the ground near the person who was shot.

Police said the video shows someone trying to stab one person on the ground and a second person.

City officials called the shooting a tragedy and urged calm and patience.

Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old in the foster care system, was fatally shot, Franklin County Children Services said Tuesday night.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther described the shooting as a "horrible, heartbreaking situation."

"We know, based on this footage, the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community. But a family is grieving tonight," he said.

The shooting happened just before the nation learned of the jury's verdict against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

"As we breathed a collective sigh of relief today, a community in Columbus felt the sting of another police shooting," Ben Crump, the Floyd family's attorney, tweeted Tuesday evening. "... Another child lost! Another hashtag."

a person sitting on a bench talking on a cell phone: Image: The scene of a police shooting in Columbus (Gaelen Morse / Reuters) © Provided by NBC News Image: The scene of a police shooting in Columbus (Gaelen Morse / Reuters)

Interim Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods said police were dispatched around 4:30 p.m. after "a caller said females were there trying to stab them and put their hands on them."

Body camera video appears to show a fight when the officer arrives. Two females are in a confrontation, and one falls to the ground in front of the officer.

The girl who was later shot appears to move toward another person near a car, and the officer appears to repeat, "get down" before firing four times.

A person, apparently the officer who fired, says the girl went "at her."

The video appears to show that officer later tell another officer who is attending to the girl who was shot, "she came at her with a knife."

Woods said it was unusual to release police body camera video so soon, but police wanted to be transparent about the incident and provide what answers it could. A public records process is underway to release the full video, he said.


The Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting an investigation into the shooting, and Woods said the information released Tuesday night was based on police records and did not include any interviews with officers or witnesses.

"The death ... is devastating," Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus said in a statement. "She could be my grandchild. My heart breaks for her family tonight. No matter what the circumstances, they are in agony, and they are in my prayers."

"They deserve answers. Our city deserves answers. I want answers. But fast answers cannot come at the cost of complete accurate answers," he said.

The officer, who has not been publicly identified, will be taken off street duty, Woods said.

Shortly after the shooting, a crowd gathered to protest near the home where the shooting occurred, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Tensions were already high in Columbus after the high-profile shootings of Casey Goodson, Andre Hill and Miles Jackson.

Jackson, 27, was shot and killed April 12 at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville. The incident involved officers from Westerville and Columbus.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said that preliminary ballistic testing showed that Jackson "had a gun and shots were fired." The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is leading the investigation into the deadly shooting.

Goodson, 23, was fatally shot as he was walking into his grandmother’s home in December by a Franklin County sheriff's deputy. A deputy working with a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force “reported witnessing a man with a gun” and fired at Goodson after a “verbal exchange,” Columbus police said at the time.

Goodson was licensed to carry a concealed firearm and was not the person being sought by authorities, police said. A preliminary autopsy showed that he was killed after multiple gunshot wounds to the torso.

The deputy who shot Goodson was identified as Jason Meade, a 17-year veteran of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.

A representative for Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney G. Gary Tyack said Wednesday that "the matter is still under joint investigation with the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio." That office did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

Hill, 47, was shot and killed by Columbus police just days before Christmas. He was a guest at the home where he was shot. Both officers who interacted with Hill failed to activate their body cameras until immediately after the shooting, a violation of department protocol. Body camera footage showed that officers did not provide aid to Hill for several minutes after he was shot four times. Officer Adam Coy was fired days later and indicted in February on charges related to the fatal shooting.

Amid the controversies surrounding the shootings in December, Columbus Police Division Chief Thomas Quinlan stepped down in January after a brief one-year tenure. Quinlan was also criticized for his handling of protesters who demonstrated against racial injustice following the death of Floyd. More than 14,000 people signed a petition calling for his resignation, which said that Quinlan directed officers to use tear gas and mace on protesters.


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