Ohio police officer who killed teenager Ma’Khia Bryant won't face charges

Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon shot the teenager as she was swinging a knife at another teenage girl, authorities said

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An Ohio police officer who shot and killed a 16-year-old girl as she swung a knife at another teenage girl and moments after pushing a woman to the ground last year was cleared of criminal wrongdoing Friday. 

Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon fatally shot Ma'Khia Bryant last April as officers were responding to a 911 call from her foster home about a group of girls threatening to stab members of the household. She was struck four times and died. 

Bryant's family expressed disappointment that prosecutors decline to pursue charges against Reardon,

A person attends the funeral of Ma'Khia Bryant, a Black teenage girl fatally shot by police, in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., April 30, 2021. Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon will face criminal charges, prosecutors said Friday. 

A person attends the funeral of Ma'Khia Bryant, a Black teenage girl fatally shot by police, in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., April 30, 2021. Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon will face criminal charges, prosecutors said Friday.  (Reuters/Gaelen Morse)

"There should have been other non-deadly options available to deal with this situation," they said in a statement. 

The killing led to a Justice Department review of the Columbus Police Department practices and heightened tensions in the capital city over the fatal shootings of Black people. Bryant was Black and Reardon is White. 

The DOJ review into the department's possible racial disparities came after an invitation by Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, who also requested recommendations on reform measures.  

The coroner listed Bryant's cause of death as a homicide — a medical determination used in cases where someone has died at someone else’s hand, but not a legal finding. It doesn’t imply criminal intent.

"At the time I fired my weapon, I was in fear for the life of the female in pink," Reardon said, referring to Shai-onta Craig, the woman who was attacked by Bryant. She has previously lived at the foster home.

She returned that day and argued with Bryant, Craig said. 

Reardon told investigators he didn’t think using mace or a "hands-on" approach would have worked because of the knife in Bryant’s hand, because he thought he was the only officer on scene and because Bryant appeared much bigger than him.

The deadly shooting also prompted criticism of Ohio's foster care system. 

"Ohio’s foster care system is failing our children and we cannot stand by and allow this to continue," the Bryant family said. "As the one-year anniversary of Ma’Khia’s death approaches, her family is resolute in their fight for justice on her behalf."

Foster parent Angela Moore told investigators that neither Bryant nor her sister, who was also in the home, had ever displayed violence, but all the girls in the home periodically argued.

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Columbus — the country’s 14th largest city — has recorded several contested police shootings, including the 2021 killing of 27-year-old Miles Jackson in an emergency room; and the 2020 shooting death of 47-year-old Andre Hill. The white police officer who fatally shot Hill has pleaded not guilty to a number of charges brought against him by the state attorney general’s office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.