COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther sent a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday asking for an investigation from the city police department into a spate of police killings of black people.
The Democratic Mayor said that while the city is committed to reform and has seen a number of “significant” changes in recent years, this is not enough.
The Justice Department recently announced that it is opening a police investigation in Louisville, Kentucky, over the death of Breonna Taylor in March 2020 and after the death of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis.
This is a breaking news update. AP’s earlier story follows below.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – There should be a federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant by a Columbus police officer, as well as an investigation into handling of Bryant’s foster home, an attorney representing the teen’s family said Wednesday .
Attorney Michelle Martin wouldn’t discuss details about why Bryant was being fostered other than the fact that the family needed help at the time. But she added that Bryant was in the system too long.
Bryant “was a 16-year-old, lively, bubbly girl whose life was cut short by many of our failing systems,” Martin told reporters on Wednesday. “We will investigate any agency that has the time and opportunity to prevent Ma’Khia’s death.”
In addition to a federal investigation, Martin would like an investigation by the Ohio Health and Welfare Agency, which oversees the care system.
Bryant’s father, Myron Hammonds, and her paternal grandmother, Jeanene Hammonds, attended the conference and discussed the pain of losing the teenager.
“To know Ma’Khia means to know life,” said the father, who was there on the day his daughter was shot. “She was with me for 16 years and she was my peacemaker.”
Jeanene Hammonds called last Tuesday’s events “tragic” and “unimaginable”.
“I want justice for my grandchild,” she added.
Bryant’s two younger sisters, Janiah and Azariah Bryant, were also at the press conference. Janiah Bryant lived with Ma’Khia at the nursing home in southeast Columbus where the shooting took place. The attorney did not allow the minors or other family members to talk about the day of the shooting or what they saw, and referred to the family’s independent investigation into what had happened.
Bryant died on April 20, less than an hour before the conviction in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial of George Floyd. Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon shot her four times while she was swinging a knife at a young woman. Reardon is white and Bryant was black.
Critics of the police’s use of violence and witnesses to the shooting – including Bryant’s father and grandmother – wanted to know why the officer did not use other tactics to prevent Bryant from shooting them, such as using an electric baton.
But many violence experts and even some civil rights lawyers have said the officer was trained and may have saved the girl who attacked Bryant. The fraternal national police force called the shooting “an act of heroism, but one with tragic consequences”.
The events leading up to the shootings began in the late afternoon after someone at Bryant’s nursing home – it is still unclear who – called 911 and said someone tried to stab people into the house.
Reardon, who has been on duty since December 2019, was dropped minutes later.
“Hey, what’s up?” Reardon asked as he got out of his vehicle.
For the next 11 seconds, Bryant was seen attacking 20-year-old Shai-Onta Lana Craig-Watkins with a kitchen knife and then moving on to 22-year-old Tionna Bonner before Reardon yelled, “Get down!” in Bryant’s chest.
Hours after the shooting, protesters flooded the streets of downtown Columbus, singing Bryant’s name along with the names of other blacks killed in encounters with Columbus police in recent months.
One of those names was Andre Hill. Earlier Wednesday, Adam Coy, the officer who fatally shot and killed Hill, 47, pleaded not guilty to an additional charge of reckless murder in the case. The plea came minutes before the attorney general, who is pursuing the former officer, dropped two breaches of duty against Coy.
But the prosecution in Coy’s case remains confident in their case.
“Our case is solid and fact-based. We stand ready to move forward,” said Anthony Pierson, senior assistant attorney general, in a statement.