COLUMBUS, OHIO – The Columbus police officer who shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant last year has been cleared of all criminal wrongdoing, Ohio prosecutors announced Friday.
Bryant was killed by Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon in April when he swung a knife at a young woman, seconds after shoving another woman to the ground. Bryant is black and Reardon is white. Police are responding to a 911 call made from Bryant’s foster home about a group of girls threatening to stab family members.
The murder prompted the Department of Justice to review the police department in the Ohio capital.
Bryant was shot four times and died of her injuries. The coroner lists the cause of death as homicide – a medical determination used in cases where someone has died at the hands of another, but not a legitimate find. It does not imply criminal intent.
Bryant’s murder further heightened tensions in the Ohio capital city over the police shooting of a black man, while also unraveling the state’s foster care system.
In announcing the grand jury’s decision, special prosecutors Tim Merkle and Gary Shroyer noted, “Under Ohio law, a police officer’s use of deadly force is justifiable when there is a connection threat of immediate or imminent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or other person. They said the decision was made after reviewing the entire shooting.
The woman Bryant was assaulting, Shai-onta Craig, formerly lived at home but returned and argued with her that day, according to Craig’s statement to police released Friday.
A week after Bryant’s death, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther invited the Justice Department to review the police department for possible “racist defects and disparities.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has accepted and last fall agreed to review the police department’s operations, saying its Office of Community Oriented Policy Services will conduct a review of what the department does. This is called technical assistance in areas like training and recruitment, including focusing on diversity and creating an early intervention system for officers.
Columbus – the country’s 14th largest city – has recorded several controversial shootings with police, including the 2021 killing of Miles Jackson, 27, in the emergency room; and the 2020 shooting death of 47-year-old Andre Hill. The white police officer who shot Hill has pleaded not guilty to some of the charges the state attorney general’s office brought against him.
Associated Press writers John Seewer of Toledo and Mark Gillispie of Cleveland contributed to this report.