White House says fatal police shooting of Black teen in Columbus ‘tragic’

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday called the fatal police shooting of a Black teenage girl in Columbus, Ohio, “tragic” and said that President Biden has been briefed on the matter.

“The killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant by Columbus police is tragic. She was a child. We are thinking of her friends and family and the communities that are grieving her loss,” Psaki said at a briefing when asked whether Biden had been briefed on the shooting, replying in the affirmative.

Police in Columbus fatally shot Bryant, a Black teenager, on Tuesday when responding to a 911 call about an attempted stabbing. Body camera footage released of the shooting shows an officer shoot Bryant four times after she apparently lunged at two people while holding a knife.

“We know, based on this footage, the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community. But a family is grieving tonight,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther (D) said at a news conference.

The shooting, which happened just before a jury in Minneapolis convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, spurred protests in the Ohio city. The officer who fired at Bryant has been taken off the street pending an investigation into the shooting, according to the acting Columbus police chief. The officer was identified later Wednesday as Nicholas Reardon.

“We know that police violence disproportionately impacts Black and Latino communities and that Black women and girls, like Black men and boys, experience higher rates of police violence. We also know that there are particular vulnerabilities that children in foster care like Ma’Khia face,” Psaki said Wednesday, noting that her death came amid a moment of hope for progress in fighting racism in policing.

“Our focus is on working to address systemic racism and implicit bias head on and of course to passing laws and legislation that will put much-needed reforms into place at police departments around the country,” Psaki continued.

Biden on Tuesday characterized the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial as a step forward to combating racial injustice but called for continued action on police reform.

“We can’t leave this moment or look away thinking our work is done,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “We have to listen, ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words. We can’t let those words die with him.”

“This can be a moment of significant change,” Biden added.

Biden and other Democrats have renewed calls for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in March, after the Chauvin verdict. The bill faces a difficult uphill battle in the Senate however, given divides between Democrats and Republicans over what provisions should be enacted to achieve police reform.

Updated at 2:17 p.m.

Tags Columbus Jen Psaki Joe Biden Ma'Khia Bryant Ohio police shooting
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