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Officer Who Killed Ma’Khia Bryant Will Not Face Charges

A grand jury has voted to bring no charges against the white police officer who shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl, as she swung a knife at a woman during a raucous dispute last year in the front yard of her foster home in Ohio.

The decision not to charge the officer, Nicholas Reardon, was announced on Friday by prosecutors. It brings a close to a case that led to protests in Columbus, Ohio, and scrutiny of the foster care system that had shuffled Ma’Khia between at least five homes in two years.

The shooting attracted national attention in part because Mr. Reardon shot Ma’Khia just 15 minutes before Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck as he struggled to breathe, was convicted of murder. When police officers, in the moments after the shooting, told Ma’Khia’s younger sister, Ja’Niah Bryant, to go back into the foster home she had shared with her sister, the verdict was the first thing she saw on a television.

Body-camera video of the incident showed that Ma’Khia had been swinging a steak knife at a 22-year-old woman outside the house when Mr. Reardon fired four shots, killing Ma’Khia.

Investigators working for the Ohio attorney general investigated the case and gave their findings to the local prosecutor’s office in Franklin County, Ohio, in July. Citing conflicts, the district attorney hired two special prosecutors who said in a statement on Friday that grand jurors had voted against any indictment.

It was unclear what options the grand jurors had been presented with; the special prosecutors said in their statement that police officers are justified to use deadly force when the officer or another person is in imminent threat of serious harm.

Ma’Khia’s family was disappointed by the grand jurors’ decision, said Michelle Martin, a lawyer for Ma’Khia’s relatives. She said family members believed that the officer did not have to use his gun. They have previously said they wish he had tried to stun Ma’Khia with a Taser or pull her away from the other girl.

Ohio’s attorney general released a huge amount of evidence on Friday, including a photograph taken by investigators of the scene where Ma’Khia was shot.Credit…Ohio Attorney General

They have also blamed the Ohio child-welfare system for taking the girl away from her family.

“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,” Ms. Martin said. “There must be full-scale changes made to Ohio’s foster care system to ensure that this doesn’t happen to another child.”

The incident began on April 20, 2021, when the sisters were alone after school at the home with the 22-year-old woman who had previously lived there. Ja’Niah told The New York Times last spring that the older woman was berating them for not being clean enough and for disrespecting their foster mother.

As things escalated, Ja’Niah called her grandmother, Jeanene Hammonds, for help. Ms. Hammonds had taken care of the children over the years after they were taken away from their mother over claims of abuse and neglect, but she said she lost custody when her landlord kicked her out of her home and she had nowhere permanent to live.

In interviews last year, Ms. Hammonds described arriving at the foster home and trying to keep her grandchildren separated from the former resident and another former foster child who had also arrived and joined the fray. Ms. Hammonds said she urged her grandchildren to pack up their belongings and had planned to take them to her house.

But as the shouting continued, Ja’Niah and her grandmother said, Ma’Khia grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen. Ja’Niah called 911 asking for help, saying that “grown girls” were “trying to stab us” and that they had tried to hurt the grandmother.

New videos from the day of the shooting released by the Ohio attorney general on Friday show Ms. Hammonds and Ja’Niah leaving the house with a trash bag of belongings. A stamp on the video indicates that it took place at 4:35 p.m., moments before the shooting.

“Ain’t nobody going to jump you,” Ms. Hammonds said in the video that was captured by a doorbell surveillance camera. “Trust me, let’s go.”

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