Fact Check

Did Ma’Khia Bryant Make 911 Call to Police Because She Was Being Threatened?

We looked at the available information surrounding who made the initial 911 call on April 20, 2021.

Published Apr 23, 2021

Updated Oct 25, 2021
 (City of Columbus/YouTube)
Image Via City of Columbus/YouTube
Claim:
Ma’Khia Bryant, the 16-year-old fatally shot by a Columbus police officer on April 20, 2021, made the 911 call to police because she was being threatened by a group of kids.
Context

Although Ma'Khia Bryant's family says she made the 911 call to the police, an independent investigation is still ongoing.

This is a trending topic but has not yet been rated by Snopes for reasons we’ll outline below.

On April 20, 2021, around the same time a jury in Minneapolis convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering a Black man named George Floyd, a Black teen named Ma’Khia Bryant was fatally shot by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio.

As the news media spoke to the 16-year-old's family and the Columbus Police Department, questions grew about who called the police to the scene. We break down all the information currently available here.

We should note that we reached out to the Attorney General’s office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), which is conducting an independent investigation into the shooting, including verifying who made the two 911 calls that day. A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office told us that as the investigation is active, they could not give us any information about the phone calls yet.

Michael Woods, interim police chief for CPD, said emergency dispatch received a call at 4:32 p.m on April 20. A female caller said other girls were at the home trying to "stab them and put their hands on them," Woods said. Police officers were dispatched four minutes after the call ended and they arrived at the home at 4:44 p.m.

In the first of the two calls that were made public in a press conference (the calls can be heard two minutes into the video below), a woman’s voice can be heard telling the police the address in Columbus, punctuated by shouting. In a second call, seemingly from a different person, the caller hung up after saying the police had already arrived. The police did not tell reporters who made the 911 calls.

Paula Bryant, Ma’Khia's mother, said that her daughter made the 911 call.

“My daughter dispatched Columbus police for protection, not to be a homicide today,” she said.

Ma’Khia’s aunt, Hazel Bryant, echoed that sentiment, telling the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau that a group of "older kids" threatened Ma’Khia with assault.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Ma'Khia's grandmother Jeanene Hammonds said that the girl did not call the police to the scene, contradicting earlier claims. She added that it was Bryant’s younger sister, her other granddaughter, who called 911

A woman named Tay Jones, who claimed to have witnessed the shooting, posted a video allegedly from the scene on Facebook. She also claimed that Bryant was the one who made the call to the police. At the 16 minute mark in the video below, she said Bryant was “defending herself. She called them for help, and I guess she ended up pulling the knife out.” She added that the police officer just shot Bryant, and didn’t even tell her to put the knife down. 

As of April 21, the police had not established who made the first call.

Given that the BCI has not yet released the results of its independent investigation, this story is currently rated a “Research in Progress.” We will update this when we receive new information.

Updates

Oct. 25, 2021: Added comments from Bryant's grandmother.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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