A grand jury declined to charge the Ohio police officer who fatally shot 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant seconds after arriving at the scene, clearing him of criminal wrongdoing, officials announced Friday.
Bryant was killed April 20, 2021, by Columbus Police Officer Nicholas Reardon as she swung a knife at another woman dressed in pink outside the foster home where she lived. Police were responding to a 911 caller reporting that someone was trying to stab and fight them at the home.
She was killed the same day that former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. In the days after Bryant's killing, TikTok videos she had recently made went viral as people grieved the death of yet another young Black person at the hands of police.
In a statement announcing the grand jury's decision, special prosecutors Tim Merkle and Gary Shroyer — who were assigned the case due to a conflict of interest with the Franklin County prosecuting attorney's office — noted that under state law, "the use of deadly force by a police officer is justified when there exists an immediate or imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another."
According to investigative files released by the Ohio attorney general's office Friday, Reardon had said in a written statement that when he fired his weapon at Bryant, he was "in fear for the life of the female in pink."
"The suspect had a knife drawn back in her right hand and was starting to swing it forward to stab the female in pink," Reardon said.
Reardon shot Bryant four times, according to an autopsy report released by the Franklin County coroner's office in August.
Michelle Martin, the attorney for Bryant's family, said in a statement that the family was disappointed in the grand jury's decision, saying that they've "long wondered why this officer opted for lethal force even though there should have been other non-deadly options available to deal with this situation."
"We believe that the tragedy that ultimately resulted in Ma'Khia's death started long before she was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer," Martin said, calling for "full-scale changes" in Ohio's foster care system.
"As the one-year anniversary of Ma'Khia's death approaches, her family is resolute in their fight for justice on her behalf," Martin said.
After the grand jury decision was announced, the city's Department of Public Safety released a statement saying that it would now determine through an administrative investigation "whether the officer's actions were within Division policy."
"Because of that pending investigation, at this time we are not able to comment further," the department said.