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Ohio county where girl, 16, was killed is state’s deadliest for police shootings

Adam Gabbatt
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Gaelen Morse/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Gaelen Morse/Reuters

The Ohio county where a Black teenage girl was shot dead on Tuesday has one of highest rates of fatal police shootings in the US, according to a recent study highlighting the disparate treatment Black Americans face at the hands of law enforcement.

Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, was shot and killed by a police officer in Columbus, Franklin county, about 20 minutes before the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd.

Tuesday’s shooting sparked protests at the scene of the shooting in Franklin county, which researchers say is the most deadly county in the state for police shootings.

The Ohio Alliance for innovation in population health released a study in February this year which found that 38 people were shot and killed by police in Franklin County, home to about 1.3m people, between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2020.

Related: Tell us: are you a Black parent talking to your children about US police violence?

An average of 4.81 per million people were killed in the county, according to the Alliance – the 18th highest rate of fatal police shootings among America’s 100 most populous counties.

Ma’Khia was shot at 4.45pm, according to police, outside a home in south-east Columbus. Franklin county children’s services, who identified Ma’Khia to the media, said the 16-year-old was in foster care.

Hazel Bryant, who identified herself as Ma’Khia’s aunt to the Columbus Dispatch, said Ma’Khia lived in a foster home on the street where she was shot. Ma’Khia had got into an altercation with someone else at the home, her aunt said.

Police played a 10-second body-cam video at a news conference on Tuesday which appeared to show a girl wielding a knife as she grappled with another person. A police officer then opens fire, and a girl drops to the ground.

Michael Woods, Columbus interim police chief, said officers had responded to a 911 call. “The information was that a caller said females were there trying to stab them and put their hands on them,” Woods said.

The officer who shot Ma’Khia has not been named and has been placed on administrative leave.

The Alliance used data from the Washington Post’s police shootings database to determine that in Ohio the rate of Black people killed by police was 339% higher than white fatalities.

An average of 6.96 Black people per million are killed by police each year, compared with 1.59 white people.

About 20% of Ohio’s Black population live in Franklin county, but the area accounted for 33% of the state’s police fatalities involving Black victims.

Of America’s 100 most populous counties, the most deadly for police killings was Bernalillo, in New Mexico.

Related: Chauvin guilty verdict a landmark moment in US criminal justice history

Within the 2015-2020 range that the Ohio Alliance studied, an average of 9.82 people per million a year in Bernalillo county were killed by police. Jackson, Montana, had the second highest figure, with a rate of 8.77 people killed each year. Denver, Colorado, was third, with a rate of 8.25 people killed by police annually.

More than a hundred protesters gathered in downtown Columbus on Tuesday night to demonstrate over Ma’Khia’s death, the local news channel 10WBNS reported. Protesters grouped together outside Columbus police headquarters and chanted: “Black Lives Matter” before marching through the center of the city.

About 50 people had earlier protested at the site of the shooting, according to USA Today. At the scene KC Taynor was one of those to note the proximity of Ma’Khia’s death to the Chauvin verdict. “We don’t get to celebrate nothing,” Taynor said, according to USA Today.

“In the end, you know what, you can’t be Black.”

Ma’Khia was shot less than five miles from where the funeral for Andre Hill was held earlier this year. Hill, a Black man, was shot and killed in Franklin county by another Columbus police officer in December. Adam Coy, who is white, has been charged with murder.

Less than three weeks before Hill was killed, a Franklin county sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr, a Black man, in Columbus. The case remains under federal investigation, according to Associated Press.