Questions concerning Ma’Khia Bryant’s family arise as attorney demands probe of foster care system

An attorney for the family of Ma’Khia Bryant, the knife-wielding 16-year-old who was shot and killed earlier this month by a Columbus, Ohio police officer, is demanding a federal probe into her death as well as the state’s foster care system.

Michelle Martin told reporters Wednesday that Bryant “was a 16-year-old vibrant, bubbly girl, whose life was cut short by many of our failing systems.”

“We are going to investigate every agency that had the time and the opportunity to prevent Ma’Khia’s death,” Miller continued, while refusing to discuss details about why Bryant was in foster care except to say that the family needed assistance at the time, the Associated Press reported.

Martin also demanded an investigation into the Ohio Health and Human Services agency, which is supposed to oversee foster care.

Also present at the press conference were Bryant’s father, Myron Hammonds, her mother Paula Bryant, and her paternal grandmother, Jeanene Hammonds, the AP noted.

“To know Ma’Khia is to know life,” said Myron Hammonds, who was on the scene when his daughter was shot seconds before attempting to stab 22-year-old Tionna Bonner. “She was with me for 16 years and she was my peacemaker.”

“I want justice for my grandbaby,” Jeanene Hammonds added.

But several social media users wanted to know more about why Bryant was in foster care to begin with.

“Ma’Khia Bryant’s death shouldn’t be an indictment of the cop trying to protect the unarmed girl she was attacking. It should be an indictment of American culture that belittles the nuclear family and fails kids in our foster care system. They were both foster kids. So sad,” wrote Elisha Kraus of the Washington Examiner.

“Why was she in foster care?” asked conservative commentator Stephen Miller.


The family’s demand for a probe of the shooting as well follows that of Mayor Andrew Ginther and City Attorney Zach Klein, both Democrats, who requested federal intervention while alleging in the wake of the April 20 shooting that “fierce opposition” to reforms within the police department means the city could use some additional assistance.

“This is not about one particular officer, policy, or incident; rather, this is about reforming the entire institution of policing in Columbus,” the two officials said in a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday. “Simply put: We need to change the culture of the Columbus Division of Police.”

The requests come on the heels of a recently-released report, commissioned by the all-Democrat city council after protests in the city following the death of George Floyd, blamed the department and city leaders for being unprepared for them, the Associated Press noted in a separate story.

“The request by Columbus leaders came the same day that the attorney representing the family of Bryant requested a federal investigation into her death and the state’s foster care system,” the AP said.

Since Ginther took office in 2016, the city has spent millions of dollars responding to complaints about the police department that resulted, among other things, in the purchase and later upgrading of body cameras. In addition, the city’s first civilian police review board was created by voter ballot initiative last November.

Nevertheless, “the City has been met with fierce opposition from leadership within the Columbus Division of Police,” Ginther and Kline wrote, going on to suggest that the Justice Department could get federal courts to force the local police union to accept procedural changes.

“We want to be partners with the DOJ to bring about meaningful, sustainable and significant reforms,” the letter said. “Not only is the elected leadership in the City of Columbus aligned with this request, but the residents of Columbus unquestionably share the same goal.”

Police union officials pushed back, however, noting that political leaders, by the actions, are making the job of keeping the city safe more difficult.

City officers “are always willing to work with any entity to improve policing in the communities they protect and serve,” Jeff Simpson, executive VP of the local union, said in a statement, according to the AP. “Politicians constantly vilifying officers breeds contempt for authority, emboldens the criminal element and has led to a mass exodus of law enforcement officers from the profession.”

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Jon Dougherty

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