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Rep. Crawley statement on police-involved shooting death of 16-year-old Columbus resident Ma'Khia Bryant

April 23, 2021
Erica C. Crawley News

Today, State Rep. Erica C. Crawley (D-Columbus) issued the following statement on the police-involved shooting death of Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

“It is with profound sadness that I release this statement on the shooting death of Ma’Khia Bryant by a Columbus Police Department (CPD) police officer on April 20, 2021. I offer my deepest condolences to her family and loved ones.

As we heard the verdict being handed down to Derek Chauvin in his trial for the murder of George Floyd, we were able to take a deep breath with the thought that finally a police officer was being held accountable for their actions. However, just moments later we learned about Ma'Khia Bryant, a child who had been shot in the chest four times by a Columbus Police Officer. Ma'Khia Bryant was 16-year-old child. 

While we do not know all of the circumstances of that fateful day of April 20, what we do know is that Ma'Khia was engaged in a fight with other young girls who came to her house. There were calls made to 911 for assistance. When the Columbus Police Officer arrived at the scene, there were no de-escalation techniques utilized, only four gunshots to Ma'Khia. The responding officer had a number of non-lethal alternatives including using a taser or pepper spray. Instead, the officer decided to be the judge, jury and executioner all within seconds of arriving on the scene. 

Ohio is a Stand Your Ground state, meaning that a person has no duty to retreat if they feel that their life is threatened. At this point, we cannot rule out that Ma’Khia may have been legally standing her ground in this altercation. As I asserted on the House floor last December, Stand Your Ground legislation is not made to protect Black and brown people, as people of color die disproportionately because of these laws. 

Just last week, we witnessed a white man in Minnesota assault a retail worker, crash his car into an officer’s car, assault a police officer, and then drive off with the officer hanging onto the vehicle while the driver sped off going more than 40 mph, and yet he was not met with violence. He was not shot, nor was he tased. Similarly in Columbus on April 18, over 1,000 Ohio State University students came together to celebrate its annual ChittFest celebration. At the end of the celebration, Columbus Police were dispatched to the area to find vandalism and many cars flipped over. No one was arrested. We know that officers are able to assess situations within a split second and make decisions where people’s lives are not lost, and yet, days later, a 16-year-old girl in Columbus is fatally shot within seconds of police arriving at the scene of a fight. It would seem as though equal protection under the law does not extend to everyone, and we know from the many other names our city has cried out just in the past six months, that this is part of a bigger problem of inadequate policing and racism.  

It is clear from this incident that racism and biases plague the Columbus Police Department. Police were heard at the scene chanting ‘Blue Lives Matter’ after 16-year-old Ma’Khia was fatally shot. We know that this slogan was created in contrast to Black Lives Matter, and the officers’ blatant disregard for the life of Ma’Khia is despicable. These officers must be held accountable and we urge that the City of Columbus evaluate needed training and reform within the police department.

I am deeply saddened that this happened, and grieve with my fellow neighbors of the 26th district where Ma’Khia was a resident, and our surrounding Columbus communities. The Ohio legislature has failed to pass any meaningful legislation that would bring more accountability and transparency to peace officers and police departments and instead has passed legislation such as Stand Your Ground that is not applied fairly across the state. Last General Assembly and at the beginning of this new General Assembly, my colleagues and I have introduced many pieces of legislation that would require training for peace officers in equitable human interaction practices (i.e., de-escalation training, racism, implicit bias, mental health crisis training, etc.), ban chokeholds and strangulation, demilitarize the police, and ban tear gas, among other pieces of legislation that the legislature failed to schedule for a hearing. This heartbreaking situation, another tragedy that our community and families must grieve, reinforces the necessity of de-escalation training and the importance of using those techniques. This type of legislation would protect community members as well as law enforcement.

Ma’Khia Bryant and her family deserve a full and fair investigation into her death, as this child’s life was taken so soon.”