While there may be conflicting stories as to who called the police or the circumstances behind who was attacking whom when a Columbus police officer shot 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant four times, what’s clear is an officer killed a teenager that didn’t pose a threat to him and no efforts were made to deescalate the situation. It took only 9 seconds from the moment he stepped out of his cruiser to fire a weapon four times at a child without clarity as to what was happening.
He made a conscious decision to pick a girl out of a crowd, declare her guilty of whatever he felt like, and almost instantly execute her. All the restraint they show with White people went out the window. As is too often the case. Even as the officer stood there after the shooting showing no remorse, his bright yellow taser could be seen on his wannabe Batman utility belt. There’s a lot to unpack in those harrowing 9 seconds and everything that happened immediately afterward.
I’m not going to share the video here. It’s traumatizing enough for anti-racist journalists to have to view them so we can accurately speak on injustice. To everyone else, it’s a decision one has to make with themselves about whether they want to experience that trauma. Since its release during a press conference hours after the shooting, it is now in the public domain and is not hard to find. I have to warn you, it’s hard to watch.
The intent behind the release of the video was to demonstrate how the officer acted to protect another supposed victim. However, it showed how quick cops can be to escalate a situation making them judge, jury, and executioner. The vain attempt to frame the narrative early because of the civil unrest in the city shows how tone-deaf and one-sided the police brutality conversation is on that side. It’s collective and conscious ignorance of the facts.
Despite their intent, the release of bodycam footage is important.
Many don’t remember when the Minneapolis Police lied about George Floyd and the police PR machine was scrutinized. Those details get lost over time. But the same thing happened in the murders of Botham Jean, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and now, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and likely, Ma’khia Bryant along with so many others. It’s become so common that unpacking the lies from the blue side has become part of the process of seeking justice.
As in the cases of Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright, their personal lives have no bearing on what happened when they were murdered. What matters is how cops reacted to a situation. In Columbus, the officer got out of his car with his gun drawn and pointed it at several people prior to shooting Ma’khia Bryant. His intent was not to deescalate and determine what was happening but to shoot someone. That much is clear.
The far-right is already going nuts over the Derek Chauvin conviction and many, including myself, point to the escalation in police violence since the massive protests during the summer of 2020. We all know about the connections between many police officers and extremist groups because it’s evident. As if to further drive that point home, the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, 3 Percenters, and several other groups boast about their connections to law enforcement.
Since the January 6, attack on the Capitol and subsequent arrests, many groups are attempting to distance themselves from their members and leaders who were involved. That doesn’t do much when they continue to brag about their connections to cops. Those same cops who share extremist beliefs, such as the three officers yelling “Blue Lives Matter” at people gathered at the scene of Bryant’s shooting, bring those tenets to work affecting their behavior. Much of their beliefs are steeped in racial prejudice whether conscious or unconscious.
The most recent police killings reflect what many of us have been warning about. Infiltrating local police and the military are high on the list of objectives for many extremist groups as well as hate groups. The contempt that is shown for Black people and people of color, regardless of an officer’s race, speaks to the viewpoints that infect law enforcement from outside sources. This is not to say that standard police training isn’t largely based on false preconceived (and often racist) notions. Much of the data used in training officers is flawed in itself.
Cops can easily take their training, inject racist or intolerant beliefs, and apply it in their daily work. Same as in any other profession. The difference is, cops commit murder and brutalize people far too often and get away with it. In other professions, there are systems in place for accountability. This lack of accountability is how officers can so easily kill people. It’s what leads an officer to shoot someone in as little as 9 seconds and has led to the murder of so many.
Whether you can justify the murder Ma’khia Bryant or not, that’s on you.
If the officer would have utilized his taser instead of his gun, Bryant would still be alive. Had he shot her only once to immobilize her, she may have survived. Had his partner or the many other officers on the scene intervened to deescalate, she would likely still be alive. Shooting her four times in the chest was beyond excessive and eliminated any chance of survival.
That’s the absurdity of it all.
We need to stop normalizing the deaths of civilians, particularly Black, Latino, and Indigenous people, at the hands of the police. That’s what this is about more than anything else. No, the officer will likely not be charged. That doesn’t mean her death wasn’t an unjustifiable homicide. She should be alive today. Because of gross negligence, she’s not.
Remember her for the beautiful girl that she was.
Worrall, J.L. The Police Sixth Sense: An Observation in Search of a Theory. Am J Crim Just 38, 306–322 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-012-9176-0
*originally published in AfroSapiophile on Medium