Ohio authorities probe fatal police shooting of Black teenage girl

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COLUMBUS — State investigators in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday were probing the fatal police shooting of a Black teenage girl in a confrontation caught on body-camera footage that appeared to show her lunging at two people with a knife.

The incident on Tuesday sparked street protests in Ohio’s largest city hours after a Minneapolis jury convicted a white former police officer there of murdering George Floyd last year by kneeling on his neck.

Authorities declined to name the girl. But family members and Franklin County Children Services have identified her as Ma’Khia Bryant, aged 16.

The officer who opened fire was not identified but appears from the video to be white. The chief said he “would be taken off the street” pending an investigation.

In a rare move, Columbus police released body-camera video of Tuesday’s shooting hours after it occurred.

The interim police chief, Michael Woods, said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) had opened an inquiry into the case, which began when officers responded at 4:44 p.m. ET (2044 GMT) to an emergency-911 call from someone who reported an attempted stabbing at a home on the city’s southeast side.

A spokesman for the Ohio BCI confirmed on Wednesday that an investigation was under way.

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“She was a good kid, she was loving,” Hazel Bryant, who identified herself as Ma’Khia’s aunt, told reporters on Tuesday, according to a video posted to Twitter. “She didn’t deserve to die like a dog on the street,” Bryant said.

Bryant, who could not immediately be reached on Wednesday, told the Columbus Dispatch newspaper that the teenager lived in a foster home and became involved in an altercation with someone at the residence.

Franklin County Children Services said in a statement posted to Twitter that Ma’Khia was a foster child in the agency’s care. The Children Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Woods said the video, which he said shows Bryant trying to stab both women, was released to the public within hours of the incident in the interest of transparency.

In the video, arriving police encountered a chaotic scene of several people on the front lawn where Bryant, brandishing a knife, charged toward one person who fell backwards, and then lunged at a second person.

A slow-motion replay of the video shows the second victim stumbling backward against a car parked in the driveway as Bryant raises the weapon as if about to stab her, and an officer opens fire.

Bryant immediately collapses against the parked car and onto the ground, and the weapon, which appears to be a kitchen knife, is seen lying on the pavement near her as an officer crouches at her side to render medical aid.

Around the time the video was made public, live television news coverage showed a growing crowd of protesters on city streets after dark, confronting a small line of police officers on bicycles.

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The demonstration appeared from media coverage to be peaceful, with protesters repeatedly chanting the girl’s name.

The city’s public safety director, Ned Pettus, Jr., appealed for calm on Tuesday while the investigation proceeds and facts are uncovered in what he called “a devastating” loss of life.

“Fast, quick answers cannot come at the cost of accurate answers,” Pettus told a late news conference with the police chief and Mayor Andrew Ginther. “BCI will conduct a fully independent investigation, which will be made public. If an officer has violated policy or the law, if they have, they will be held accountable.”

Ginther said it appeared from an initial review of the footage that the officer who opened fire “took action to protect another young girl in our community.”

“But another young girl will still not be coming home tonight,” he said. “I ask everyone to pray for peace. Tonight, we pray for this family, we pray for this city, and we pray for our neighbors.” (Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)

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