Apr 21, 2021
16-Year-Old Ma’Khia Bryant Killed By Police Update: Columbus, Ohio Mayor Press Conference Transcript April 21
Columbus, Ohio Mayor Andrew Ginther held a press conference on April 21, 2021 to provide updates on the fatal police shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. Read the transcript of his news briefing speech here.
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Chief Woods: (00:04)
Ma’Khia Bryant has been positively identified as the 16-year-old killed in this incident, and law enforcement has been in contact with her family. As I said last night, the important step now is for BCI to conduct a independent and transparent investigation. The Columbus Division of Police will assist them, but we will not interfere in any investigative process that they have. Our role is to provide them the information that they request and do so in a timely manner. We will not interfere. We will not provide input. We will allow them to conduct their investigation. At the conclusion of their investigation, that investigation is sent to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, where it will be presented to a Franklin County grand jury, and eventually the packet will come to the Columbus Division of Police, and we will review that incident for policy compliance or violations.
Chief Woods: (01:03)
Now Mayor Ginther will come up and say a few words.
Mayor Ginther: (01:31)
We don’t yet have all of the facts, but we do know that a 16-year-old girl, child in this community, tragically died last night. We released the officer’s body-worn camera footage as soon as possible. We’ll release all other information that we can, as soon as we can. We also need to be careful about not compromising the investigation being conducted by BCI. We believe that transparency with the public is the utmost priority during this difficult time.
Mayor Ginther: (02:20)
Bottom line, did Ma’Khia Bryant need to die yesterday? How did we get here? This is a failure on part of our community. Some are guilty, but all of us are responsible. BCI will determine if the officer involved was wrong. And if he was, we will hold him accountable, as we have other officers who have committed wrongdoing criminally, or in violation of the policies and procedures of the Division of Police. Transparency, accountability, absolutely critical to our community during this time of crisis. We have a bigger societal question. How do we, as a city and a community, come together to ensure that our kids never feel the need to resort to violence as a means of solving disputes or in order to protect themselves? We remain committed to ensuring accountability in all violent interactions between police and our neighbors. The BCI investigation is the first step in unraveling what led to the tragic death of yet another child in our community.
Mayor Ginther: (03:46)
This is what we have done thus far. We released officer involved body-worn camera footage within hours of the incident. We updated stakeholders throughout the evening of the incident. We are releasing remaining body-worn camera footage from witness officers here this afternoon. We will release cruiser cam video either later today or early tomorrow morning. We continue to meet with faith leaders, community leaders, and the media to share everything we can without compromising the investigation, because we know how critical timely, full, transparent information is to the public right now.
Mayor Ginther: (04:30)
I invite Safety Director Pettus to come forward and share a few words.
Safety Director Pettus: (04:44)
Thank you, Mayor. I understand the outrage and emotion around this incident. A teenage girl is dead, and she’s dead at the hands of a police officer. Under any circumstances, that is a horrendous tragedy, but the video shows that there is more to this. It requires us to pause, take a close look at the sequence of events. And though it’s not easy, wait for the facts as determined by an independent investigation.
Safety Director Pettus: (05:43)
We have to ask ourselves, what information did the officer have? What did he see? How much time did he have to assess the situation, and what would have happened if he had taken no action at all? We don’t yet have those answers, but these are some of the questions that are asked and addressed in disciplinary hearings that come before me.
Safety Director Pettus: (06:21)
As Chief Woods has indicated, a fully independent investigation is being conducted by BCI. The results will be public. So I plead with the community, let us not rush to judgment. As I said last night, fast facts should not come at the cost of complete and accurate facts. The loved ones of Ma’Khia Bryant have my most sincere sympathies, and we as a community should wrap them in love, and we should allow the process to play out. Thank you.
Chief Woods: (07:15)
Again, I am limited in the information not only that I can share, but in the information that I have. As I stated earlier, the Division of Police, our responsibility is to provide information, not to conduct this investigation. So I will try and answer some questions that you have.
Speaker 4: (07:32)
Chief Woods, who was on that first 911 call? Is that Ma’Khia Bryant’s voice?
Chief Woods: (07:36)
We do not know that. Again, that will be BCI interviewing all the witnesses to determine who made those phone calls. The Division of Police did not interview any witness or anyone that day, and we will not interview them.
Speaker 4: (07:49)
Did anyone on the scene say it was Ma’Khia making the call?
Chief Woods: (07:52)
I do not have any of that information.
Speaker 5: (07:53)
Chief Woods, who were the other people in that video? For example, the woman on the ground, or the woman in pink. How old were they and what were their relationships?
Chief Woods: (08:03)
Again, those are witnesses, so they were referred to BCI. So BCI would have that information, but again, that’s part of their investigation. We don’t come in. We did separate the witness. You saw that, with the officer placing individuals in the backseats of cruisers. That was the extent of our involvement, right then. We wanted to separate the witnesses, keep them available for BCI, but we do not interview them. We don’t ask them what they saw before we got there, or when it was there. That’s an entirely exclusive BCI process.
Speaker 6: (08:37)
Chief, I just have a question for you, and then one for the Mayor, if I may. This question has to do with policy more than it has to do with the investigation. Since it happened, and people heard the mayor call for transparency in the body cameras being released, one question specifically that has gone viral on social media is, to what degree should the officer opt to use a taser rather than his service weapon? Again, I’m asking you to respond to that based on policy, not specific to this investigation.
Chief Woods: (09:09)
Yeah. Because I cannot respond specifically to this specific incident, but what I can say is when officers are faced with someone employing deadly force, deadly force can be the response the officer gives.
Speaker 6: (09:30)
And at what point is it more prudent for said officer, in a hypothetical scenario, to use a taser versus their service weapon?
Chief Woods: (09:34)
Again, if there’s not deadly force being perpetrated on someone else at that time, an officer may have the opportunity to have cover, distance, and time to use a taser. But if those things aren’t present and there is an active assault going on in which someone could lose their life, the officer can use their firearm to protect that third person.
Speaker 6: (09:59)
Mr. Mayor, it’s very rare for a police agency in this country to release body camera video as fast as the Columbus Police Department did. You pretty quickly after the shooting sent out a couple of tweets saying there is camera video, and indicating you want to release it. Did you face an uphill battle with anyone, in pushing for them to try and get it released last night?
Mayor Ginther: (10:27)
No. I think we all knew as a city in this community that there were a lot of things being said and shared out in the community that may or may not have been consistent with what we have seen with our own eyes here. And I think critically, during a time of crisis, it’s very important to be as transparent and responsive as possible. And so worked closely with the Director and the Chief to make sure, and their teams, to make sure we got this footage out. Now you have everything that we have that has been processed, and we’ll be sharing more in the hours, days, weeks ahead, that doesn’t compromise the investigation. Because it’s critically important for us, for the public to have the information that we have, so we can be transparent as possible.
Speaker 4: (11:17)
Mayor, to follow up on that, whose call was it to release all that information? Why was it done? Was it done to calm emotions? And did it calm emotions, do you think?
Mayor Ginther: (11:27)
Well, it was done because the public deserves to know what happens, and they needed to have this footage. The reason that I made body-worn cameras my top priority when I was running, and we invested so much during my first term, is to have this information, to have this transparency, to have this power given to the community, so it’s no longer about an officer’s word versus a resident’s word, or different neighbors’ takes on things, but we have this footage, and we know that having this footage increases accountability on both sides of the camera. And this is also why we are upgrading our body-worn camera system this year in partnership with counsel to make sure that we have the next iteration and the best available technology and footage to share with the public as these things take shape.
Speaker 7: (12:22)
Mayor, first, a follow up on that. Now that we’ve seen how quickly this body camera footage can be released, is that going to be the standard for all officer-involved shootings moving forward? Or was this a unique circumstance?
Mayor Ginther: (12:34)
I believe that it will be something that we have to evaluate. My goal was to have as much information shared as quickly as possible. And as you know, our top priority last year was ending N2, by executive order and an MOU. The first time ever that the city has had independent investigations take place with police-involved shootings, that BCI is handling in this case, as well as the case involving Andre Hill from December. That was a top priority, and something that we believe is important. That folks know that there’s an independent investigation taking place when there are police-involved shootings and deaths, and deaths in custody. That’s something that I think we will strive for and we’ll make a priority, again, because we believe transparency is most important during times like these.
Speaker 7: (13:26)
You’ve talked about the need for reflection on everyone’s responsibility for a tragedy like this. Regardless of whether the investigation finds this officer acted appropriately, or within protocol, are you going to be calling for change to try to prevent another shooting like this?
Mayor Ginther: (13:44)
Absolutely. I mean, the fact that we had a 16-year-old girl armed and involved with physical violence with other folks in that community, that’s something for us to look in the mirror and to say, “What are we doing or not doing? How can we better serve young people who are facing one of the greatest spikes in violence in this city and in cities across America? What else can we be doing?” As you know, we’re undertaking significant reform efforts and seating our first ever Civilian Review Board. We’re looking at our training, and how we’re recruiting, and the types of officers that we’re putting on the street, and what we’re equipping them with, all in response to the Matrix Report and the Community Safety Advisory Commission recommendations. And so this is going to be a top priority for this city moving forward, as we continued with change and reform. We’re going to be hiring the first external chief of police in this city’s history in the coming months, and we think that, with other steps, will help us deal with what the community is calling for.
Speaker 8: (14:46)
Chief Woods, you described how your policy allows an officer to discharge their firearm to prevent deadly harm. What do you train your officers about how many times they can discharge their weapon, before stopping and reevaluating, and determining if they need to keep discharging their weapon?
Chief Woods: (15:04)
Firearms training is, you fire it until the threat is over. So there were shots fired, but I can’t assess what the officer is thinking. That’ll be through his statement, but training is, you fire to stop the threat.
Speaker 9: (15:19)
Chief, can I ask you about the gentlemen who also seen in the video, he was seen kicking the girl who was on the ground? Is CPD investigating that separately as a possible assault?
Chief Woods: (15:30)
Yeah. We will have to look at that, but first, before we can talk to that person or any other individual to look at any other crime that may have been committed during this is that BCI, again, has to have that first opportunity to talk to everyone there. Once they give us information that those interviews have been completed, and that it’s okay, then we will step in and see if there are additional individuals that need to have charges filed.
Speaker 9: (15:53)
And Mayor, can I follow up on your previous statement? What do you think could have been done differently to prevent what happened last night?
Mayor Ginther: (16:04)
Well, obviously we’ll know a lot more once we have the independent investigation completed and the results back from that, which will be an exhaustive process that we have a great deal of confidence in. And the people have confidence that it will be an independent investigation. Certainly what I was speaking to is this larger spike in violence that you and I have talked about a number of times over the past year, year and a half, and what we need to be doing as a community to prevent the type of violence before any officer arrived on the scene that was taking place in one of our neighborhoods. And it’s going to require all of us to step up and do more to invest in our young people, and make sure that they have positive programmatic pathways to a brighter future.
Mayor Ginther: (16:59)
There’s so many young people right now that are hopeless. They feel like they don’t count, they don’t matter, and there’s no impact on their future. And they continue to see their friends shot and killed, day after day, week after week, month after month. There is a hopelessness out there amongst young people, and that’s something collectively as a community we’re going to have to address.
Speaker 10: (17:19)
Mayor, you talked about this a little bit, but Council President Hardin also said this morning in his statement that guns cannot be the final answer for threats like this. What specifically did you see on that tape that makes you think that this may not have been appropriate, or on the alternative, that officers did act appropriately given the circumstances as we see them unfolding in realtime?
Mayor Ginther: (17:42)
Well, obviously the investigation will respond to that, and will answer that, both on the criminal side and then policy side for the Division of Police. I haven’t seen the Council President’s statement, so I’m not going to react to that, but I do believe that a lot of the other reforms and efforts that we’re involved with, including the alternative crisis response, and other things that we’re investing in, will help. I don’t know if any of those things would have had a different outcome based on what we’ve seen in this footage, but we won’t know completely until that independent investigation is finished.
Speaker 11: (18:19)
Chief, one of the big questions that has been asked primarily on social media, and it may seem like a silly question that, “Shouldn’t people already know?” But this is a legitimate question that a lot of people are asking, is, can an officer shoot the leg? Can they shoot somewhere that would not result in a fatal wound, right? So a lot of people have said, “Couldn’t you have just shot her in the leg so she dropped? Couldn’t he have shot her in the arm?” Something like that. Respond to those questions.
Chief Woods: (18:46)
One of the difficult things with that is, when you’re trying … We don’t train to shoot the leg, because that’s a small target. We are trained to shoot center mass, what is available to stop that threat. There was a threat going on, a deadly force threat that was going on, so the officer is trained to shoot center mass, the largest part of a body that is available to them. When you try to start shooting legs or arms, rounds miss, and then they continue on, and there are people behind that that could be in danger that are not committing anything. So we try and minimize any danger to anyone else if we have to use our firearm.
Speaker 5: (19:23)
Chief, is a 12-minute response time to report an attempted stabbing acceptable? 12 minutes.
Chief Woods: (19:28)
It was not written up as an attempted stabbing. We received the information as a disturbance. There was, as you could hear from the 911 call, it was some confusing information. The dispatchers attempted to gain more information to help them decipher what was going on. The second call was very abbreviated. Once they saw a cruiser outside, no additional information was provided. So what we try and do with our dispatchers is ask those questions, get as much information that we possibly can, so that officers traveling to a scene have all that information. In this instance, I think it was very chaotic. The phone call was very loud. There was a lot of screaming going on in the background, so all that information that we weren’t able to get would have been beneficial, but as far as a 12-minute response time, I also don’t know what was else going on in the city at that time. We have to prioritize. We only have so many resources. So if there were other priority calls for service going on at that time, we have to look at that, and then are cars available for that?
Speaker 5: (20:33)
The caller did refer to “trying to stab.”
Chief Woods: (20:38)
Speaker 5: (20:39)
That’s no cause for urgency?
Chief Woods: (20:43)
Again, cars were dispatched. We had the run written. Are cars available? I don’t have that information if cars were available. We received the call, the call was written up, but do we have cars available to respond? That’s a that’s a question I just don’t have the answer to right now.
Speaker 13: (20:57)
Do we know the proximity to the first responding officer who fired the shot? Do we know how far he was from the scene?
Chief Woods: (21:00)
I do not.
Speaker 13: (21:00)
Speaker 14: (21:01)
Do you know if those two girls were injured? The two that we see, the one in pink that goes down, and then the girl who the knife was heading towards? Do we know anything about whether they were injured?
Chief Woods: (21:13)
I believe they were minor injuries. I don’t have the extent of those injuries though.
Speaker 14: (21:16)
Do you know if those were knife injuries?
Chief Woods: (21:19)
I don’t have that information. Again, any injury or any information they would have provided would have gone to BCI, not to the Columbus Police.
Speaker 15: (21:29)
Chief, you said the first call came in at 4:32. Is that correct?
Chief Woods: (21:29)
Speaker 15: (21:36)
And the second call came in-
Chief Woods: (21:38)
I don’t have that time. I just have the first information we received, the first call at 4:32.
Speaker 15: (21:43)
And officers were dispatched at 4:35?
Chief Woods: (21:45)
Speaker 15: (21:46)
Does it typically take three minutes to dispatch an officer to a scene like we discussed, where there was a disturbance?
Chief Woods: (21:54)
Again, the dispatcher has … This is zone two, so this is a large part of the southeast part of Columbus. So there are four precincts on that zone. It was an afternoon. It was a nice day. There may have been a lot of calls for service. So what cars are available? They rate those in priorities, priority one, priority twos. This was a priority two call. Once a car is available, they get dispatched.
Speaker 16: (22:22)
Chief, do you know how many gunshot wounds the deceased had [crosstalk 00:22:25]?
Chief Woods: (22:24)
I do not. That’ll be a BCI question.
Speaker 17: (22:26)
Chief, does the Columbus Police Department’s policy state that the officer must declare he is about to shoot before he does shoot?
Chief Woods: (22:33)
We try, but it is not a policy requirement that you yell your intent to fire your weapon.
Speaker 17: (22:39)
Is it a part of the teaching that the officer is taught to-
Chief Woods: (22:42)
If there is time and opportunity, yes. We try and include that, but it is not a requirement if that time and opportunity is not there.
Speaker 18: (22:55)
Chief, can I get clarification, do you know or can you confirm that Ma’Khia did live in that community, in one of the houses near the scene?
Chief Woods: (22:57)
I can’t confirm any information about her residence or any information about her.
Speaker 19: (23:02)
Chief Woods, do we know what this disturbance was about?
Chief Woods: (23:06)
We don’t. And again, that’ll be obtained through those investigations from BCI. Again, they’re getting that first crack. They want to have that information. They want to have that information fresh. And I would like to just kind of mention your question about the timeliness and how quick we were able to get this information out there. One of the things that has to occur before we get that is that BCI wants to have the opportunity to look at that body-worn camera footage. So we send a homicide detective to that scene with a computer that allows them to watch that. They want to review all that body-worn camera so that when they’re doing their investigation, the scene, any evidence, they want to make sure that they have collected any evidence, so they’re getting that first opportunity.
Chief Woods: (23:51)
So last night, that opportunity to view that happened quickly, then that body-worn camera was brought into police headquarters. We uploaded it into the system, and then we got that out as quick as we could. I believe about five and a half hours. That’s extremely fast, and I’m not going to say that we’re going to be able to do that every time. If there are a lot more videos to watch, BCI has to go through each one of those videos to have a good understanding of what took place, who to interview, what the crime scene looks like. So it’s time factor of making sure that they have that information before any of us do. BCI agents watched all that body-worn camera before it was ever brought to me.
Speaker 20: (24:33)
Chief, what’s your takeaway watching that video?
Chief Woods: (24:38)
It’s a tragedy. There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old girl. I’m a father. Her family is grieving. Regardless of the circumstances associated with this, a 16-year-old girl lost her life yesterday. I sure as hell wish it hadn’t happened.
Speaker 21: (25:03)
Speaker 22: (25:03)