The Columbus police officer who shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia last year has been absolved of any criminal wrongdoing, according to Ohio prosecutors.
In April 2021, police were dispatched to Ma’Khia’s foster home in response to a 911 call about a group of girls threatening to stab members of the household. Officer Nicholas Reardon arrived on the scene, pulled out his gun, and fired four bullets at Ma’Khia as she seemed to be swinging a knife at a young woman, according to video released by police. Ma’Khia’s death inflamed tensions in Columbus over fatal police killings of African-Americans, while also shining a spotlight on the state’s foster care system.
“Under Ohio law, the use of deadly force by a police officer is authorized when there exists an actual or imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another,” special prosecutors Tim Merkle and Gary Shroyer said in a statement after the grand jury decision was announced.
Michelle Martin, Ma’Khia’s family’s attorney, issued a statement following the grand jury’s decision, saying:
“Ma’Khia Bryant’s family is disappointed that the officer who shot and killed her last year was not indicted by a Franklin County grand jury. Ma’Khia’s family has always puzzled why this cop used lethal force in this situation when there should have been alternative non-lethal choices available. We feel Ma’Khia’s death was the result of a tragedy that began long before she was shot and murdered by a Columbus police officer. To ensure that this does not happen to another kid, Ohio’s foster care system must undergo significant adjustments.”
Angela Moore, a foster mom, told investigators that neither Bryant nor her sister, who was also in the house, had ever shown aggression, but that all of the girls in the family fought on a regular basis.
The United States Justice Department accepted Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther’s invitation to review the police department for possible “deficiencies and racial disparities” a week after Bryant’s death. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducted an investigation into the officer-involved shooting, which was completed in July 2021.