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Ma'Khia Bryant's Neighbors Grapple With Her Death

makhia bryant memorial site
Adora Namigadde
A memorial site just a few feet away from where a Columbus Police officer shot Ma'Khia Bryant.

Shiny pink and purple balloons, flowers and stuffed animals surround a tree just a few feet from where Columbus Police officer Nicholas Reardon killed Ma’Khia Bryant. Residents who live on Legion Lane say it’s normally a quiet neighborhood. The peace and calm attracted Jerry Slocum to the area in 2017.

“I thought it was quiet. Walkability because it has sidewalks,” Slocum said. “We was up north before that and there was a lot of chaos up there. But it looks like it’s here too.”

Slocum lives a few houses down from the site of the memorial. She remembers hearing four loud gunshots on Tuesday and running outside to see what was going on.

“It was just awful, just awful,” Slocum said, shaking her head. “It was just terrible, just terrible.”

Officer Nicholas Reardon’s body camera footage shows Bryant lunging towards someone in a bright pink sweatsuit. He yells for her to ‘Get down!’ before he shoots.

Tuesday afternoon, Bryant, a 16-year-old Black teenager, was shot and killed by Reardon. The incident made national news, as it came just before the guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial. Bryant’s neighbors are grappling with the aftermath of her death amid the intense scrutiny.

Jerry Slocum
Adora Namigadde
Jerry Slocum ran outside when she heard the gunshots. She lives a few doors down from the address where Bryant died.

A Call To Action For The Community To Step Up

Reardon shot Bryant around 4:30 p.m. Slocum thinks the altercation that led to the 911 call and subsequent shooting could have been avoided with the right type of engagement.

“From 2:30 til about 6 these teenagers are walking around and don’t have nothing to do,” Slocum says. “Kids really are not getting the supervision they need and guidance. They’re just not. And the mayor, I know he’s trying, but he need to try a little harder. There’s no community center here in this area.”

Another neighbor, Chris Mitchell, agrees that kids need more supervision. He thinks it’s up to the adults in the neighborhood to step up to provide it.

“You know, there were adults out here as well. We as a community, we have to do better as well. We have to do better as well,” Mitchell says. “That officer was absolutely wrong. Absolutely wrong. But us as a community, we have to value our lives and our children’s lives as well.”

Like Slocum, Mitchell works from home. He was playing with his five-year-old twins in his backyard when he heard the gunshots.

“I did not know her personally. I’ve seen her walk up and down the street with the group of her friends or family or what not,” Mitchell says. “But she seemed to be a very pleasant young lady. Very manner-able.”

When Bryant was strolling through the neighborhood with friends, Mitchell says she’d always stop to say hi. He says her death convicts him.

“If we’re not going to stand for our community and for our children, then no one else will,” Mitchell said. “And it’s obvious. It is obvious.”

Chris Mitchell
Chris Mitchell lives on Legion Lane. He was playing with his five-year-old twins in his backyard when he heard the gunshots.
Adora Namigadde

Neighbors Torn Over Whether The Shooting Was Just

Another neighbor who is a foster mother asked WOSU to withhold her name for fear of impacting her ability to foster in the future. She’s been watching video footage of Bryant’s death repeatedly.

“How can you be outraged at the system? Yeah, a lot of bad shootings have occurred. But this was not one,” the neighbor says. “Because they didn’t have sound, concrete information regarding the incident at hand.”

She says because neither person who called 911 answered the operator’s questions, the responding Columbus Police officers did not know what kind of situation they were heading into.

“He wasn’t like the George Floyd police officer who just laid in on her with his hands in his pocket, not being concerned and nonchalant. No! He… I commend him,” the neighbor says. “I don’t care what no one say. I commend him.”

While some neighbors blame Reardon and others believe he responded justly, everyone I spoke to who lives on Legion Lane agreed that Bryant's death is tragic.

“I just hate it because a young lady lost her life. No matter what she was doing, she was still a child,” Slocum says. “What got her here? Why?”

‘What got her here?’ remains unanswered.

Franklin County Children’s Services issued a statement saying the agency continues to provide support to Bryant’s family. Children’s Services would not confirm why Bryant was under the care of a foster parent or for how long. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation continues to investigate her death.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.