An Ohio criminal justice professor said the police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, while a tragedy, was a “legally justified” use of lethal force.
Bryant, 16, died Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, after a police officer shot her to stop her from attempting to stab another girl. Bryant’s death sparked protests in Columbus as Black Lives Matter activists and others accused the officer of using unjustified force against the teen.
Bowling Green State University criminal justice professor Philip Stinson, who specializes in fatal use of force scenarios by law enforcement, said that the officer’s actions were justified because he had a “reasonable” belief that potentially fatal harm could have come to another person had he hesitated.
“My first impression is that the officer was legally justified in using deadly force,” Stinson told The Columbus Dispatch.
“It’s a terribly tragic situation, and my heart goes out to the girl and her family and friends,” he said. “But from looking at the video, it appears to me that a reasonable police officer would have had a reasonable apprehension of an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death being imposed against an officer or someone else. That’s the legal standard.”
Retired Columbus SWAT officer James Scanlon agreed with Stinson’s analysis, saying that the officer was justified in shooting Bryant to protect a girl that Bryant had been lunging at with a knife.
“An officer is justified in using deadly force if his life or the life of someone else is at risk,” Scanlon told the Dispatch. “Few would argue that there weren’t at least two lives there that were at serious risk.”
The officer shot Bryant “to save the life of someone he doesn’t even know,” Scanlon said. “It’s a shame that no one has recognized that that officer, in all likelihood, saved one or more lives.”
An officer responding to a 911 distress call shot Bryant as she lunged with a knife at another girl, attempting to stab her. As The Daily Wire reported:
According to WBNS-TV, officers in Columbus, Ohio received a 911 call from a distressed individual saying multiple women were attempting to stab her. Bodycam footage from the incident showed officers arriving to find Bryant wielding a knife at two girls, at which point the responding officer stepped in and fired his service weapon as she appeared to be attempting to stab one of the victims.
“She came at her with a knife,” an officer can be heard saying in the video.
Bryant was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition, where she was later pronounced dead.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Bryant’s death was “tragic” and Bryant was “just a child.”
“The killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant by Columbus police is tragic. She was a child. We are thinking of her friends and family and the communities that are grieving her loss,” Psaki said Wednesday.
“We know that police violence disproportionately impacts Black and Latino communities and that Black women and girls, like Black men and boys, experience higher rates of police violence. We also know that there are particular vulnerabilities that children in foster care like Ma’Khia face,” she continued. “Our focus is on working to address systemic racism and implicit bias head-on and of course to passing laws and legislation that will put much-needed reforms into place at police departments around the country.”