Washington, DC - The tragic event in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday afternoon was yet another demonstration of the impossible situations our officers often find themselves in and illustrates that “split-second, life-or-death decisions” are all too real, and none of them are easy.
The Columbus Police Department released body-worn camera footage to the public within hours of the incident. They should be commended for doing so. This was a demonstration of what police transparency looks like—getting the facts out before the narrative can be distorted or disinformation takes hold in a community.
The footage showed officers responding to a pair of 911 calls—emergency calls for service. Upon arrival, the officers encountered a chaotic melee and immediately tried to break up the fight. One of the combatants was armed with a large knife and had pinned another woman against a vehicle, drawing back the knife in a stabbing motion—presenting an immediate and lethal threat to another citizen.
After only ten seconds on the scene, the officer, who repeatedly yelled “Get down!” at the armed assailant, was faced with a split-second decision and fired to protect the life of a young woman. This was a lethal force situation and resulted, sadly, in the death of Ma’Khia Bryant. An act of heroism, but one with tragic results.
Any outcome in a 911 call that ends with the loss of a human life is a tragedy, whether that loss of life is an assailant, a victim, a bystander, or an officer.
Those officers had seconds to assess a scene of total chaos and less than a second to make a life-and-death decision. We need not make a split-second decision now. We must allow the investigation to proceed and run its full course before any conclusions can be reached. Let us not compound this tragedy with further violence or calls for violence. We urge patience, calm, and reason as the details of this terrible event come out.