The verdict hadn’t even been announced in the Derek Chauvin trial when much of America quickly pivoted to The Next Thing.
Dateline: Columbus, Ohio, where police were called to the scene of a neighborhood fight between teenaged girls late Tuesday afternoon, even as much of the nation breathlessly braced for news from Minneapolis.
Just as the jury was announcing its verdict in the death of George Floyd in a courtroom almost 800 miles away, a tragic scene was unfolding.
In a matter of moments after a 911 call, a 16-year-old Black girl was dead on the street.
There wasn’t even time for America to breathe a sigh of relief in one case in which the video evidence seemed so clear, before a narrative began to spread from Columbus.
Another Black teenager murdered by the police, Twitter accounts blared.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, was among those who weighed in on the latest officer-involved shooting.
“A Black teenage girl named Ma’Khia Bryant was killed because a police officer immediately decided to shoot her multiple times in order to break up a knife fight. Demand accountability. Fight for justice. #BlackLivesMatter,” Jarrett tweeted.
LeBron James tweeted an image of the Columbus officer and added, “YOU’RE NEXT. #ACCOUNTABILITY,” an apparent reference to Chauvin’s trial and conviction in the murder of Floyd. But James soon deleted the tweet, probably realizing that the body-cam footage showed the girl flailing away with a knife, apparently trying to stab two other Black teens.
The officer had to make a split-second decision in order to save a life or perhaps two. The parents of the girl pinned against a car by a girl wielding a knife probably consider him a hero.
But Jarrett, James and others on social media defaulted to the narrative of a trigger-happy cop taking a life.
Some suggested improbable, movie-scene solutions like shooting the knife-wielding girl — who was the person who had actually called 911 — in an arm or leg or firing a warning shot into the air.
The pesky thing about those warning shots we see in the movies — in real life, gravity brings those bullets back to Earth. Others wondered why the officer used deadly force — he apparently fired four times — instead of employing his Taser.
What if he’d done that and missed and a deadly stabbing resulted?
It’s still early and there is no doubt that law-enforcment authorities will investigate what happened in Columbus from the moment that fight broke out, the 911 call was made the officer decided to use deadly force.
Every use of force by police should be investigated thoroughly. But to suggest that an officer “murdered” a teenager from the jump — before any evidence was collected, witnesses interviewed and body-cam video seen — was ill-advised and irresponsible.
Doing so did nothing but inflame tensions in an already-reeling nation.