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Ma'Khia Bryant: Police Identify Officer Who Shot Teen, Release Video Footage

Columbus, Ohio, police have released the name of the officer who shot and killed 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant, saying officer Nicholas Reardon fired his weapon after police were called to the scene Tuesday afternoon due to a report of a disturbance.

In an update on Wednesday, Columbus police revealed more details about what transpired, including releasing 911 recordings and police videos of the shooting.

Bryant, who was Black, died after calling 911 to ask for police to come help protect her from a group of other girls who had threatened violence, her family says. State authorities are investigating her death. Video from the scene shows that Bryant was holding a knife.

"We need a police officer here now," a female is heard telling a 911 operator in one recording, as yelling is heard in the background. As the noise continues in the background, the female adds, "We got these ... grown girls over here, trying to fight us."

Interim Police Chief Michael Woods said police are not yet certain whose voice is heard on the call. The second recording is very brief, ending when the caller saw that police cars were arriving.

Officers who responded to the scene in a residential neighborhood knew only that a "disturbance" was going on, Woods said in an update on the incident.

Columbus police released three videos from officer-worn body cameras on Wednesday, along with audio from two 911 calls. Unlike video that was released Tuesday evening, the newly released recordings provide a more prolonged look at the violence that played out almost immediately after police arrived.

The footage shows that Reardon fired several shots at Bryant as she and a woman were struggling next to a car. In the video, Bryant is seen holding what looks to be a knife. After a quick succession of gunshots, Bryant immediately fell to the ground, and officers soon began administering first aid to her.

"Bottom line: Did Ma'Khia Bryant need to die yesterday?" Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said.

The police laid out a timeline of the incident, starting with the initial 911 call at 4:32 p.m. Officers were then dispatched at 4:35 p.m., with the first officers arriving at 4:44 p.m., Woods said.

Reardon was working alone when he pulled his police car up at the address given in the 911 calls. As he crossed the sidewalk, a group of people could be heard yelling, with a small crowd gathered in a driveway.

"What's going on?" he repeatedly asks in the video, as Bryant struggles first with one woman and then another. Reardon shouts, "Get down" and points his gun at Bryant, who is seen swinging her arm toward the other woman.

The officer then fired four shots. From the time he closed his police car door to when he fired the first shot, only around 10 seconds elapsed.

Bystanders began yelling at Reardon, saying he didn't have to use his gun.

"She had a knife. She just went at her," Reardon says.

"She's a f***ing kid, man! Damn, are you stupid?" a man standing nearby replies.

Reardon joined the Columbus police department in December 2019, Woods said.

"I understand the outrage and emotion around this incident — a teenage girl is dead, and she's dead at the hands of a police officer," said Ned Pettus, director of the Columbus Public Safety Department. "Under any circumstances, that is a horrendous tragedy. But the video shows that there is more to this. It requires us to pause, take a close look at the sequence of events and, though it's not easy, wait for the facts as determined by an independent investigation."

Both Ginther and Woods said the city and police agency are cooperating fully with the in-progress investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Woods later added that state investigators viewed police footage from Tuesday afternoon's shooting before he did.

"It's a tragedy," Woods said. "There's no other way to say it."

Saying that Bryant's family is now grieving, Woods added, "Regardless of the circumstances associated with this, a 16-year-old girl lost her life yesterday. I sure as hell wish it hadn't happened."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.