By: Nevaeh Richardson
By now you’ve probably heard the name Ma’Khia Bryant, the 16-year-old girl from Colombus, Ohio shot by a police officer just moments before Derek Chauvin’s verdict was announced.
The wave of relief after Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges in the murder of George Floyd was short-lived after news of Bryant’s death.
According to police chief Michael Woods of the Columbus Police Department, a call for help was received at 4:32 p.m. A woman told officers that people were trying to fight and stab her and other people.
Police officers arrived at the scene at 4:44 p.m. Body camera footage shows Bryant fighting with a girl against a car and aiming to stab her. One of the responding officers, identified by CPD as Nicholas Reardon, fired his gun four times, killing Bryant.
Bryant’s mom, Paula Bryant, told WBNS-TV that Ma’Khia is the one who called for help against people fighting outside her house. This claim has yet to be addressed by the Colombus Police Department.
For many Americans outraged over the tragic death of the Ohio teen, the most important question is, “Was Ma’Khia’s death necessary?”
Within the past year, we’ve watched officers repeatedly practice the overuse of force on predominantly African American citizens. Officers who have sworn to preserve life seem hell-bent on destroying Black lives.
But does that apply here? We have video evidence of Bryant wielding a knife and charging two other young ladies, raising it toward one of them when the officer opened fire. Should the officer have done nothing? If no actions were taken, would we be mourning the death of the other teen who most likely would have been attacked?
While these questions are valid, and it’s important to look at the entire picture, we have to keep in mind that the preservation of life and the right to due process is of utmost importance.
My question to Officer Reardon and the countless other trigger-happy policemen is, why are lethal weapons like guns being used as a first resort instead of last, especially against Black Americans?
Tasers can be used from up to 20 feet away and deliver about 1,200 volts of electricity and cause a contraction of muscles and temporary paralysis, allowing officers to disarm and subdue a violent person.
While many activists argue that tasers and stun guns have not been used as an alternative to guns, but rather a tool to increase abuse and brutality, especially against people who are already subdued, I would like to think that Ma’Khia’s chance of survival would have been much greater against a taser than four bullets.
Can officers be retrained when it seems like their automatic response to jay-walking and traffic stops is to reach for their gun? If guns have to be drawn, can officers be trained to aim for the least lethal areas, such as hands and feet? And what about warning shots to momentarily pause civilians in their tracks?
I don’t have the solutions to any of these questions. In fact, I believe police departments are too corrupt to enact and enforce any type of purposeful retraining. What I do know is that these officers who swear to protect and defend need to get a lot more creative in their efforts to de-escalate harmful situations.
Bryant absolutely needed to be stopped from possibly taking away another person’s life, but more could have been done to ensure that her life was not taken and that her rights to due process (yes, contrary to popular belief, African Americans have the same rights to due process as everyone else) were protected.