Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) said the officer who fatally shot Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, last week appeared to have been “responding as he was trained” to deal with the situation, saying he had to make a split-second decision.
Bryant, of Columbus, Ohio, was seen on body camera footage being shot by an officer. She appeared to be holding a knife and was lunging at a young woman.
“I also was a patrol officer who was out there on the street having to make those split-second decisions,” Demings told CBS News on Sunday. “You know, now everybody has the benefit of slowing the video down and seizing the perfect moment. The officer on the street does not have that ability. He or she has to make those split-second decisions, and they’re tough.”
Demings, a former police chief, added: “But the limited information that I know in viewing the video—it appears that the officer responded as he was trained to do with the main thought of preventing a tragedy and loss of life of the person who was about to be assaulted.”
The officer who shot Bryant was identified as Nicholas Reardon.
Going further, Demings called on Americans not to make her death a political issue, saying that “our good police officers need it, and quite frankly, the American people need it.”
“We in Congress in both chambers can meet this moment as well if we have the political will to do so,” she added to CBS.
Bryant, 16, was in foster care with Franklin County Children’s Services at the time of her death. Her grandmother, Debra Wilcox, described her as a shy and quiet girl.
“The fact that I see what I saw on that video is not how I know my Ma’Khia,” her grandmother was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “I don’t know what happened there unless she was fearful for her life.”
Some news outlets like CBS News were criticized for apparently ignoring the fact that Bryant was seen on video holding a knife and was shouting that she was going to kill the other woman. Bryant’s death came on the same day that a jury returned a guilty verdict against former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
Several metropolitan areas saw protests after Bryant’s death, including in Upper Manhattan where vandals and rioters spray-painted anti-police slogans on a Columbus Circle monument.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.