Columbus police officer fatally shoots girl swinging knife

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Columbus police shot and killed a teenage girl who swung at two other people with a knife Tuesday, according to bodycam footage from the officer who fired the shots just minutes before the verdict in George Floyd’s killing was read.

Officials with the Columbus Division of Police showed a segment of the footage Tuesday night just hours after the shooting took place in a neighborhood on the city’s east side. The decision to swiftly release the video was a departure from protocol as the force faces immense scrutiny from the public following a series of recent high-profile police killings that have led to clashes.

WARNING: Video contains graphic images

The 10-second clip begins with the officer getting out of his car at a house where police had been dispatched after someone called 911 saying they were being physically threatened, Interim Police Chief Michael Woods said at the news conference. The officer takes a few steps toward a group of people in the driveway when the girl, who was Black, starts swinging a knife wildly at another girl or woman, who falls backward. The officer shouts several times to get down.

The girl with the knife then charges at another girl or woman who is pinned against a car.

From a few feet away, with people on either side of him, the officer fires four shots, and the teen slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade similar to a kitchen knife or steak knife lies on the sidewalk next to her.

A man immediately yells at the officer, “You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!”

The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”

The race of the officer wasn’t clear.

The girl was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. It remains unclear if anyone else was injured.

Police did not identify the girl or her age Tuesday. One family member said she was 15, while another said she was 16.

The shooting happened minutes before the verdict in the killing of George Floyd was announced. Protesters who had gathered peacefully after that verdict to call for police reform and accountability quickly shifted their focus to the killing of the girl. The crowd of about 100 could be heard chanting outside police headquarters as city officials offered their condolences to the family and acknowledged the rarity of showing bodycam footage so soon after a police shooting.

Woods said state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others, and investigators will determine whether this shooting was such an instance.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther mourned the loss of the young victim but 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.

Meanwhile, outside the briefing, hundreds of protesters pushed past barriers outside police headquarters and approached officers as city officials were showing the bodycam video inside. Many chanted, “Say her name!” While others signified the victim’s age by yelling, “she was just a kid!” Officers with bicycles pushed protesters back and threatened to deploy pepper spray on the crowd.

The shooting happened about 25 minutes before a judge read the verdict convicting former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the killing of Floyd. It also took place less than 5 miles from where the funeral for Andre Hill, who was killed by another Columbus police officer in December, was held earlier this year. The officer in Hill’s case, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the force, is now facing trial for murder, with the next hearing scheduled for April 28.

Less than three weeks before Hill was killed, a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr. in Columbus. The case remains under federal investigation.

Last week, Columbus police shot and killed a man who was in a hospital emergency room with a gun on him. Officials are continuing an investigation into that shooting.

Kimberly Shepherd, 50, who has lived in the neighborhood where Tuesday’s shooting took place for 17 years, said she knew the teenage victim.

“The neighborhood has definitely went through its changes, but nothing like this,” Shepherd said of the shooting. “This is the worst thing that has ever happened out here and unfortunately it is at the hands of police.”

Shepherd and her neighbor Jayme Jones, 51, had celebrated the guilty verdict of Chauvin. But things changed quickly, she said.

“We were happy about the verdict. But you couldn’t even enjoy that,” Shepherd said. “Because as you’re getting one phone call that he was guilty, I’m getting the next phone call that this is happening in my neighborhood.”

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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Kryska reported from Hoboken, New Jersey.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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