Ma'Khia Bryant killing: Who is Michael Woods? Columbus interim police chief defends cop's use of deadly force

Interim Police Chief Michael Woods said state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others


                            Ma'Khia Bryant killing: Who is Michael Woods? Columbus interim police chief defends cop's use of deadly force
Columbus Interim police chief Michael Woods defended the shooting of teenager Ma'Khia Bryant (Columbus.gov/ Twitter)

The shooting death of 16-year-old teenager Ma'Khia Bryant by Columbus officer Nicholas Reardon is slowly becoming a rallying point for people after her death on April 20, 2021.  What is poignant about the whole situation is that the Black teen met her death barely an hour before ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was handed down the guilty verdict for kneeling on Black man George Floyd's neck and killing him in May 2020. Not only that, while Chauvin's trial was going on another Black man, Daunte Wright, 20, was shot down by Brooklyn Centre officer Kimberly Potter on April 11 in Minnesota. The officer meant to discharge her taser but instead shot him with her gun, killing him. These incidents combined, the people are outraged at the racial injustice and treatment of Black people at the hands of law enforcement. 

In Ma'Khia's case, while the authorities might have released the name of the police officer involved in the fatal shooting of the teen, they are also defending the incident. Columbus Police Department’s interim police chief Michael Woods announced that it was officer Reardon who fired the shots that killed the 16-year-old girl. Reardon has reportedly been on the force since December 2019. He has now been placed on leave until the investigation is over.

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Child raises fist in car during a protest in reaction to the police shooting of MaKhia Bryant, 16 on April 21, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. Black Lives Matter activists met at the Columbus Police Headquarters, marched to the Ohio Supreme Court and then to the Ohio Statehouse to protest the killing of Bryant. (Getty Images)

After the shooting, Woods said the state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others, and investigators will determine whether the shooting of Ma’Khia was such an instance. Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation is reviewing the killing following an agreement with the city last summer for all police shootings to be handled by the independent investigators under Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.

Woods was not the only one to defend the use of deadly use, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther mourned the loss of the young victim also defended the officer’s use of deadly force.
“We know based on this footage the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community,” he told reporters.

Attendees of the vigil for MaKhia Bryant, hold candles in the parking lot of Douglas Alternative Elementary School on April 21, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. The vigil was attended by activists and friends and family of MaKhia Bryant, 16, who was shot and killed by Columbus Police on April 20. (Getty Images)

The use of deadly force necessary?

Following the shooting, authorities were asked why Bryant had not been shot in a less lethal area, for instance, her leg. The explanation that followed strongly defended the officer’s actions. "One of the difficult things with that is we don’t train to shoot the leg because that’s a small target. We train to shoot center mass to what is available to stop that threat," Chief Woods reportedly said on April 22. "There was a threat going on, a deadly force threat that was going on, so the officer was trained to shoot center mass - the largest part of a body that is available to them."

"When you try and start shooting legs or arms, rounds miss and they continue on and there are people behind that who could be in danger that are not committing anything, so we try to minimise danger to anyone else if we have to use our firearm."

Ma’Khia Bryant shot after reportedly calling police over an attempted stabbing (Twitter / YouTube Video)

Death 'a tragedy'

Additionally, Woods also said that the force’s firearms training dictates that an officer fires until the threat is over, that the use of force is authorized if the safety of the officer or a third person is in jeopardy.

"If there’s not deadly force being perpetrated on someone else at that time, an officer may have the opportunity to have cover, distance and time to use a Taser," Woods reportedly said. "But if those things aren’t present, and there is an active assault going on in which someone could lose their life, the officer can use their firearm to protect that third person." 

In order to maintain transparency with the public, authorities released the bodycam footage that showed Bryant's last moment leading up to the shooting. The police chief also said that two officers performed life-saving measures on Bryant before help arrived and that medics arrived at the scene within six minutes and transported the teenager to a hospital, where she died from her wounds.

"It’s a tragedy. There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old girl. I’m a father. Her family is grieving. Regardless of the circumstances, a 16-year-old girl is dead. I sure as hell wish it hadn’t happened," he said.

Who is Michael Woods?

According to the official site for Columbus police, Woods is currently serving as Interim Chief of Police for the City of Columbus, having been appointed to the Division of Police on April 17, 1988. He is a father to three daughters.  

In 2011, Woods was promoted to Commander and was assigned to Zone 5 and the Special Services Bureau. Two years later in 2013, Woods was promoted to Deputy Chief and worked in Support Services, Homeland Security and Administrative Subdivisions. 

The site says that Woods is committed to keeping his city safe through "innovative police strategies and cooperation with non-governmental groups as well as local, state, and federal law enforcement partners". 

The bodycam footage showed that there were several young women in the driveway along with one yielding a knife (recognized as Ma’Khia Bryant). She had a knife in her hand and was approaching another young woman. When the woman fell to the ground, Bryant can be seen moving toward another woman, who is against a car. It is then that the officer fired his weapon, with four shots being heard on the video and Bryant fell to the ground.