Columbus police fatally shoot teenage girl

As community members gathered in the neighborhood where the violence unfolded and outside police headquarters, police released segments of officers’ body-worn camera video at a news conference late on Tuesday. Columbus Interim Police Chief Michael Woods claimed that the video shows a teenage girl with a knife attempting to stab two other people at the scene before she is shot by police.

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The body camera video appeared to show one person lunging at another in front of a parked car in a driveway before officers shot her dead, though it was difficult to make out any weapons in the footage.

“We know, based on this footage, the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther (D) said at the news conference late on Monday. “But a family is grieving tonight, and this young 15-year-old girl will never be coming home.”

Neighbor Ira Graham III said that he had just come home from work when he heard shots and ran outside to see a teen girl on the ground badly wounded. It was disorienting coming so close to the verdict in the Chauvin trial, he said.

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“It’s just so ironic,” he said. “This stuff just never ends.”

Ginther and other Columbus officials vowed to release more information “as soon as it becomes available” and appealed to residents to “remain calm” as state law enforcement worked the case. A spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Bethany McCorkle, said the agency was on scene at the 3100 block of Legion Lane investigating but declined to share more about the incident.

“The death of a 15-year-old child is devastating. She could be my grandchild,” said Ned Pettus, the Columbus director of public safety. “No matter the circumstances, that family is in agony and they are in my prayers. They deserve answers … but fast, quick answers cannot come at the cost of accurate answers.”

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Family members identified the victim to local media as a teenager, but police officials have not confirmed her identity.

Paula Bryant told 10TV that the victim was her 16-year-old daughter, “a very loving, peaceful little girl.” Hazel Bryant, who identified herself as the victim’s aunt, told the Columbus Dispatch that her niece got into a fight with another person at her foster home on Legion Lane. Bryant said the victim had a knife but had dropped it before an officer shot her multiple times.

Woods said at the news conference late on Tuesday that full body-camera footage of the incident was not shown because of a public records process that requires officials to blur the faces of juveniles on video. He also noted that per the department’s policy, officers can use deadly force to protect themselves or a third party.

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“Whether this applies with that will be part of an investigation,” he said at the news conference.

The shooting struck a raw nerve as Chauvin’s trial for the death of George Floyd came to an end and leaders ranging from the Minnesota Attorney General to President Biden emphasized the need for broader police reform and restored trust between law enforcement and their communities.

“As we watched the verdict from Minneapolis many talked about the sigh of relief — but there is a truth that for so many in our community there is no relief,” said Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin at a Tuesday meeting related to new civilian review board for police. He said there had been a police shooting.

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“This is not all right. It’s not okay,” he said, “and it can’t continue on.”

Ben Crump, the prominent civil rights lawyer representing the Floyd family, weighed in on Twitter: “As we breathed a collective sigh of relief today, a community in Columbus felt the sting of another police shooting,” he wrote, mourning another “child lost.”

“Another hashtag,” he said.

Officers responded to a 911 call from someone who reported a female was trying to stab them and then hung up, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Video taken at the scene shortly after the shooting shows two police officers kneeling over the girl, who is lying near a car at the end of a driveway. One is performing chest compressions.

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She appears unresponsive and blood is pooled on the ground beneath her. Around them, several more officers tape off the area as family and neighbors cry.

One can be heard saying, “He shot her four times.”

Graham recalled hearing four gunshots just outside his southeast Columbus home. Outside, a woman who told him she was the girl’s grandmother was distraught, he said, repeating “they didn’t have to shoot her, they didn’t have to shoot her.”

Graham didn’t know the girl well, he said, but had seen her walk by his place several times.

One police officer on the scene was wearing a “blue lives matter” face mask, Graham said, which he considered insensitive.

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“We know police lives matter, because you know why? When police are killed, the person is brought in and justice is served,” Graham said.

The police shooting in his neighborhood “just brings it home a little closer,” he said, and reaffirms his decision to tell his 18-year-old son — who, like Graham, is Black — never to call the police.

“I say you never call the police for anything, you call your daddy,” Graham said. “And this is exactly why I said that, because you can call the police and then all of a sudden you’re dead.”