In the past 36 or so hours, we have been inundated with the various reports, stories, and takes from various outlets and people about the death of Ma’Khia Bryant, who was shot and killed by Columbus, Ohio police around the same time that the former police officer Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in the death of George Floyd came in.
Floyd died while Chauvin kneeled on his neck for over nine minutes, long past the time that Floyd was resisting or even a threat, and the jury found Chauvin was directly responsible for the man’s death. Bryant died after being shot multiple times in the process of attempting to stab another person. Yet, both deaths are being blamed on bad policing, regardless of the facts of the case.
Yes, Floyd’s death could absolutely have been avoided. The justice system worked, and Chauvin will be punished for killing Floyd. The officer who shot and killed Bryant is currently off patrol duty while the shooting is being investigated. There is currently not enough evidence to say it was a bad shooting, though. In fact, the video evidence and the 911 call that brought officers to the scene both heavily suggest Bryant was the aggressor and the officer made a tragic, but correct, decision that, by the evidence we currently have, saved lives.
Even Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo admit it on CNN.
CNN's Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon were surprisingly reasonable tonight when discussing the Columbus police shooting.
"They roll up on the scene, they see people tussling around. Someone has a knife. And their job is to protect and serve," Lemon said. pic.twitter.com/2jRsBf49Sp
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) April 22, 2021
That is what we know now. In the immediate aftermath, we didn’t have all the facts. We did have video, and we had an idea, but that didn’t stop reporters, pundits, etc. from jumping to the conclusion that this was a bad shooting. Why? Because Bryant was 16 years old. Most critics of the shooting have referred to her as a child — legally, she was — but ignore the fact that she was clearly attacking someone in the video. Her death is in no way comparable to Floyd’s, which occurred after he was no longer a threat to anyone at the scene.
Celebrities, like professional basketball player LeBron James, quickly jumped in on the death of Bryant, posting the shooting officer’s face to his Twitter platform, which has millions of followers, and stating that “We’re coming for you.” He later deleted the original tweet and put up one later saying his original was being used to cause more hate, which is incorrect, given it was his original that was based on a bad presumption and risked inciting violence against that officer. There is no justice in what could’ve happened to him.
I’ll never say that actors, athletes, etc. should keep their opinions to themselves. The beauty of the First Amendment is that they absolutely can comment on social and political issues, and given the size of the platforms they have, it’s impossible that to think they won’t. But, when your platform is that big, you really need to consider how much of an effect one false, omitted, or otherwise poorly-conveyed fact can have.
That is the issues with tweets like his, Valerie Jarrett’s, and others in the social media sphere, who chimed in before we had all the facts. It is the issue with people on all sides of the political spectrum chiming in before about 24 hours after the news event happened. There is a void of information that leads to assumptions, many of which turn out to be false.
The death of Ma’Khia Bryant could definitely have been avoided, but not because of bad policing. She was aggressive at the scene, went after someone with a knife and a seemingly clear intention to cause harm, and police reacted in a way that saved a life. Had they not intervened and Bryant maimed or even killed someone, we wouldn’t be talking about her at all. It would be another act of violence that goes under-reported, and we wouldn’t even have a chance to move on because it wouldn’t have hit our radars in the first place.
But trying to equate her death to George Floyd’s only works on a superficial level: They were both killed by a police officer. That’s the only comparison, and everything else ignores the clear threat Bryant appears to have posed in that one moment.