Police have defended the fatal shooting of teenager Ma’Khia Bryant as they named the officer involved as Nicholas Reardon.
Columbus Police Department’s interim police chief Michael Woods announced that it was Officer Reardon who fired the shots that killed the 16-year-old girl.
Officials say that Officer Reardon has been a Columbus police officer since December 2019, and he has been placed on leave while the incident is investigated.
Reporters on Wednesday asked Chief Lee why Ma’Khia had not been shot in a less lethal area, like the leg. The police chief defended the officer’s actions.
“One of the difficult things with that is we don’t train to shoot the leg because that’s a small target. We train to shoot center mass to what is available to stop that threat,” said Chief Woods.
“There was a threat going on, a deadly force threat that was going on, so the officer was trained to shoot center mass – the largest part of a body that is available to them.
“When you try and start shooting legs or arms, rounds miss and they continue on and there are people behind that who could be in danger that are not committing anything, so we try to minimise danger to anyone else if we have to use our firearm.”
He added that the force’s firearms training dictates that an officer fires until the threat is over and that the use of force is authorised if the safety of the officer or a third person is in jeopardy.
Police have released the body camera video footage of the incident from the officer involved in the shooting, and two other officers.
The police chief said that two officers performed life-saving measures on Ma’Khia before help arrived, and that medics were called 90 seconds after the shots were fired.
He added that medics arrived at the scene within six minutes and transported the teenager to a hospital, where she died from her wounds.
“It’s a tragedy. There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old girl. I’m a father. Her family is grieving. Regardless of the circumstances, a 16-year-old girl is dead. I sure as hell wish it hadn’t happened,” he said.
The body camera footage, which the department released within six hours of the killing, showed officers approaching a driveway at the home they had been called to.
There were several young women in the driveway, and one, now identified as Ma’Khia, had a knife in her hand and was approaching another young woman.
When the woman fell to the ground, Ma’Khia is seen moving towards another woman, who is against a car.
The officer then fired his weapon, with four shots being heard on the video, and Ma’Khia fell to the ground.
Ma’Khia’s mother, Paula Bryant, described her daughter as having a “motherly nature about her.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Ma’Khia’s shooting “tragic” at her daily briefing on Wednesday.
“She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family in the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss,” said Ms Psaki.
“We know that police violence disproportionately impacts Black and Latino people in communities and that Black women and girls, like Black men and boys, experience higher rates of police violence.
“We also know that there are particular vulnerabilities that children in foster care, like Ma’Khia, face.”