Columbus mayor asks DOJ to investigate police department to identify racial disparities, solutions for reform

Columbus mayor asks DOJ to investigate police department to identify racial disparities, solutions for reform

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther sent a letter Wednesday to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation into the city’s police department following a spate of police killings of Black people.

Ginther said that while the city is committed to reform and has already established a number of “significant” changes in the past few years, it is not enough.

The request comes a week after the death of Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, a Black teen who was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer April 20 after she attempted to stab another young woman, according to authorities.

Bryant is among the five Black children killed by police in Columbus since 2016, according to a database from the Washington Post. The deaths include Joseph Jewell, 17, in February 2020; Abdirahman Salad, 15, in January 2020; Julius Ervin Tate, 16, in December 2018; and Tyre King, 13, in September 2016. 

“The city of Columbus is committed to reform,” Ginther wrote in the letter. “We must align with the reality of how we are policing with community expectations of how we should be policing.” 

Ginther is asking the DOJ to evaluate current efforts to reform its force, as well as identify any racial disparities that exist within the division. 

The officer who shot Bryant, Nicholas Reardon, has been taken off duty pending the investigation. He was hired in December 2019, according to the Columbus Division of Police. 

Police received a phone call at 4:32 p.m. Tuesday, April 20 about a female trying to stab another person on the 3100 block of Legion Lane. The department released three separate clips of body camera footage Tuesday and Wednesday that shows Bryant holding a knife while fighting with another girl. When police arrived on scene, the video shows Bryant pinning the girl up against a car. Police yelled for Bryant to “get down,” but then Bryant lunged and attempted to stab the other girl when Reardon fired his weapon. 

Officers then attempted life-saving measures “almost immediately,” according to CDP Interim Chief Michael Woods. At 4:45 p.m., reports came into the department about the officer shooting a young girl. Medics arrived on scene within six minutes, according to authorities. 

Bryant was taken to a nearby hospital, and she was pronounced dead at 5:30 p.m.

Columbus is also at the center of two other high-profile shootings: Andre Hill, who was shot and killed by a police officer in December, and Casey Goodson Jr., who was shot and killed by a Franklin County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

The Justice Department recently announced it’s opening probes into policing in Louisville, Kentucky, over the March 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, and in Minneapolis following last year’s death of George Floyd.

Read the full letter Ginther sent to the DOJ below:

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