Though wondering if I'd be able to stomach it, I nonetheless made myself watch the officer's body cam video of the shooting on CNN. Then I watched it again. Then another time in slow motion. Then I watched the video taken by a neighbor's security camera. And what I saw in all of those films was not what I had expected to see - a police officer committing a murder - but rather a police officer stopping a murder.
The scene captured on the video was chaotic, a yard full of people shouting, one girl going after another girl with a knife, causing her to fall, then the girl with the knife going after a second girl who is wearing a bright pink tracksuit. The girl with the knife pins the girl in pink against a car, pulls back her arm, then drives the knife towards the girl.
There can be no doubt that Ma'Khia Bryant would have stabbed, perhaps killed 22-year-old Tionna Bonner if Officer Nicholas Reardon hadn't fired. The officer's body cam video makes this perfectly clear.
What is also very clear is that this officer was in a situation not of his own making and beyond his control for which there could have been no good outcome.
He pulled the trigger of his service revolver to stop one young woman from stabbing another. Had Reardon not pulled the trigger Tionna Bonner would have been badly injured at least, and the officer would have been blamed for that outcome, as well. The narrative would have been that the police are always shooting unarmed, innocent Black people, so why did this cop not shoot this time when he could have actually saved a life? There could have been an accusation of racism as well: cops will shoot a Black person for no reason, but not to save the life of another Black person.
For officer Nicholas Reardon the choices were lose-lose.
Except, possibly, for the one choice he could and most likely should have made that might have made a difference: Instead of firing four times at Ma'Khia Bryant he could have fired once. One shot would have wounded the girl. Granted, badly. But one shot might well have spared her life. Or it might well not have.
There are those who hold that Officer Reardon could have used a taser or tried to de-escalate the situation. Maybe. But from the moment the officer exited his vehicle to the moment the knife was raised the body cam footage records ten seconds .
But what about the other choices that could have been made before the police were called that might have saved Ma'Khia's Bryant's life?
What about the fight that was in progress between Ma'Khia and two other girls, one of them Tionna Bonner, when the police were called? What words were said, what things were done, that so enraged Ma'Khia that she grabbed a knife and pursued those girls outside to the front yard? Those who loved Ma'Khia have come forward to say that she was a peaceful, friendly, fun-loving girl. What set her on that violent rampage, made her so angry that she wanted to kill?
What if Ma'Khia had dealt with her anger in some other fashion than to impulsively grab a knife?
What about the screaming crowd in the front yard? What part did they play in turning up the heat in a situation already boiling over with rage?
And what about whatever situation it was in Ma'Khia's life that made it necessary for her to be living in foster care?
But at this point none of that seems to matter, at least not among those protesters taking to the streets of Columbus in outrage by yet another police shooting of a person of color in this city .
The culture and lack of correct training and oversight within police forces across this country create a threat to people of color. And, in truth, to the officers themselves as well.