Officials with the Columbus Division of Police released footage of the shooting Tuesday night, just hours after it happened — a departure from protocol as the force faces immense scrutiny from the public following a series of recent high-profile police killings that have led to clashes.
The video showed Bryant charging at two people with a knife before the shooting.
The girl was identified by Franklin County Children Services, which said in a news release that the 16-year-old Bryant was under the care of the agency at the time of her death.
The 10-second clip begins with the officer getting out of his car at a house where police had been dispatched after someone called 911 saying they were being physically threatened, interim Chief Michael Woods said at a news conference.
The officer takes a few steps toward a group of people in the driveway when Bryant starts swinging a knife wildly at another girl or woman, who falls backward. The officer shouts several times to get down.
Bryant then charges at another girl or woman who is pinned against a car.
From a few feet away, with people on either side of him, the officer fires four shots, and Bryant slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade similar to a kitchen knife or steak knife lies on the sidewalk next to her.
A man immediately yells at the officer, “You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!”
The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”
Bryant was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. It remains unclear if anyone else was injured.
The officer has been taken off street patrols for the time being.
Woods said state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others, and investigators will determine whether this shooting was such an instance.
Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now reviewing the killing following an agreement with the city last summer for all police shootings to be handled by the independent investigators under Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther mourned the loss of the young victim but defended the officer’s use of deadly force.
“We know based on this footage the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community,” he told reporters.
The shooting happened about 25 minutes before a judge read the verdict convicting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the killing of Floyd.
It also took place less than eight kilometres from where the funeral for Andre Hill, who was killed by another Columbus police officer in December, was held earlier this year. The officer in Hill’s case, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the force, has been charged with murder. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for April 28.
Less than three weeks before Hill was killed, a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr. in Columbus. The case remains under federal investigation.
Last week, Columbus police shot and killed a man who was in a hospital emergency room with a gun on him. Officials are continuing an investigation into that shooting.
White House responds
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the shooting “tragic” and said President Joe Biden has been briefed on it.
“She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family and the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss,” she said in a statement.
Pskai said the White House’s focus is “to address systemic racism and implicit bias head on” by passing legislation on “much-needed” police reforms.
“So our focus is on working to address systemic racism and implicit bias head on and, of course, to passing laws and legislation that will put much-needed reforms into place at police departments around the country.”
‘It is at the hands of police,’ says neighbour
A crowd gathered Tuesday night at the scene on Legion Lane, which police had partially blocked off to traffic. Others gathered at the city’s police headquarters to protest, a week after officers pepper-sprayed a group that tried to enter the building over the killing of the man in the hospital emergency room.
Kimberly Shepherd, 50, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 17 years, said she knew the victim.
“The neighbourhood has definitely went through its changes, but nothing like this,” Shepherd said of the shooting. “But this is the worst thing that has ever happened out here, and unfortunately it is at the hands of police.”
Shepherd and her neighbour, Jayme Jones, 51, had celebrated the guilty verdict of Chauvin. But things changed quickly, she said.
“We were happy about the verdict. But you couldn’t even enjoy that,” Shepherd said. “Because as you’re getting one phone call that he was guilty, I’m getting the next phone call that this is happening in my neighbourhood.”