By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Columbus, OH – A grand jury declined to bring charges against the Columbus police officer who shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant as she was attacking two people with a knife in April of 2021.
“The jury decided to return a no bill which means they did not proceed with any criminal charges against Officer Reardon and found no criminal act,” Columbus Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Jeff Simpson said, according to WSYX.
“That is pleasing to hear,” Simpson continued. “It’s always sad when there is a loss of life, however, the actions of the people at scene, caused him to take action that saved lives and he is trained very well. He did his job, and it is a good outcome.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost released the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) investigatory files on the incident to the public, WSYX reported.
“BCI was called to do a thorough, independent investigation of the facts,” Yost said. “I’ve asked for patience while promising transparency, and now is the appropriate time for that work to be made public.”
The incident began at approximately 4:32 p.m. on April 20, 2021 when the Columbus Police Department (CPD) received a report that “females” were at 3171 Legion Lane “trying to stab them and put their hands on them,” then-CPD Interim Chief Michael Woods said during the press conference.
The 911 dispatcher tried to gather information about any potential weapons that might have been involved, but was unable to get those answers amid the chaos in the background of the call, Chief Woods said.
Officers arrived at the scene at 4:44 p.m., just five minutes after they were dispatched.
Bodycam footage showed Columbus Police Officer Nicholas Reardon approaching a group of people screaming at one another in the driveway of a residential area when a girl came running towards him.
The girl, who was being chased by Bryant, tumbled to the ground at Officer Reardon’s feet after the girl chasing her shoved or took a swing at her, the bodycam showed.
Chief Woods explained the attacker was trying to stab the girl who fell.
Bryant then pivoted and went after another girl who was dressed in a pink jumpsuit, the video showed.
“Hey! Get down! Get down!” Officer Reardon ordered to no avail, as a man appeared to kick the girl who had fallen onto the ground.
Bryant then swung a knife at the girl dressed in pink, who by that time was pinned against the hood of a car, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The officer discharged his weapon, hitting Bryant.
A metallic sound could be heard as she fell to the ground and dropped an object onto the ground that appeared to be a knife, the video showed.
The chaotic scene amped up further after the shooting as additional officers rushed in and bystanders began screaming at them.
“She had a knife – she just ran at her,” Officer Reardon told two of the witnesses, one of whom appeared to be the same man seen kicking the victim who had fallen to the ground right as the officer initially arrived.
“She’s a f—king kid, man!” the man screamed back at him.
The teen who had been shot had rolled onto her back by that time, and an officer could be seen moving a knife from beside her and down towards her feet as he tended to her wounds, bodycam footage showed.
Bryant was rushed to Mount Carmel East hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 5:21 p.m., The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Although he has been cleared of criminal charges, Officer Reardon is still facing an internal investigation of his actions that day to determine whether he violated any CPD procedures or policies, WSYX reported.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther also promised an investigation into the foster care system that Bryant’s family has said failed her, WBNS reported.
“I am grateful for the grand jury for their work and to BCI for their investigation,” Ginther said in a statement. “The next step is an administrative investigation by CPD, and Franklin County continues to look into Ma’Khia Bryant’s care in the foster system. In the end, none of that brings Ma’Khia back, and we must continue to lift up her family in our prayers.”
Bryant’s family released a statement through their lawyers, WBNS reported.
“Ma’Khia Bryant’s family is disappointed that a Franklin County grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot and killed her last year,” attorney Michelle Martin said. “Ma’Khia’s family has long wondered why this officer opted for lethal force even though there should have been other non-deadly options available to deal with this situation.”
“We believe that the tragedy that ultimately resulted in Ma’Khia’s death started long before she was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer,” the statement continued. “There must be full-scale changes made to Ohio’s foster care system to ensure that this doesn’t happen to another child.
We need to work tirelessly to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society. Ohio’s foster care system is failing our children and we cannot stand by and allow this to continue.”
“As the one-year anniversary of Ma’Khia’s death approaches, her family is resolute in their fight for justice on her behalf,” Martin added.