COLUMBUS, Ohio — Paula Bryant says she likes looking at her daughter Ma’Khia’s TikTok videos and pictures. Those are the images she wants to remember.
But there are other images, the 11 seconds of police body camera video, that became part of the public’s collective memory last April when the 16-year-old was fatally shot outside of her foster home by a Columbus Division of Police officer.
“And unfortunately my family suffered a tremendous loss. Ma’khia is never – she had her whole future ahead of her. She is not here with us anymore,” Paula Bryant told 10 Investigates Friday. “Each day is a task for me. I am not going to lie and say it's not. I miss my daughter terribly. But I have peace knowing that she is in heaven. But it's very hard. I look at her TikTok videos, I look at her pictures. I miss her.”
The fatal police shooting and the 29 police runs that preceded it at the foster home where Ma’Khia and her sister were placed raised questions in the immediate aftermath about the use of force and the inner workings of the foster care system.
There were calls for change.
Last month, a grand jury chose not to indict the Columbus police officer Nick Reardon, saying there was no probable cause to believe that a crime occurred.
Additional documents and videos released by investigators provided additional context into what happened.
Reardon shot Bryant while responding to a domestic disturbance call in April of last year.
His police body camera video shows he responds to the scene and within seconds Bryant is shown appearing to lunge at a woman with a knife. Reardon fired.
10 Investigates was unsuccessful in attempting to reach Reardon Friday. A message was left with his attorney as well.
Paula Bryant says she has concerns about her interactions with Franklin County Children Services. She is currently working to regain custody of her remaining children but was also critical of the agency in her interview with 10 Investigates.
A 10 Investigates’ review of police records found since 2016, Columbus police have responded at least 29 times to the foster home on Legion Lane.
Sixteen of those calls, police reports and dispatch logs show, they were in reference to missing persons reports. That does not include the run police made for the alleged assault and disturbance that preceded Ma’khia’s death.
Paula's new attorney, Byron Potts, told 10 Investigates Friday they're considering their legal options.
"There is no excuse … Their charge is taking care of the best interests of the children. And if they are falling short and not doing what they are supposed to do, they need to be sanctioned for it,” Potts said.
This week, Franklin County Children Services put out a statement ahead of the one-year anniversary of Ma'khia's death -- calling it a "heartbreaking loss.”
The release read in part:
“The death of one of our youth, Ma’Khia Bryant was a personal and heartbreaking loss to our workers and Agency. As we approach the one-year anniversary of her death, we continue to share our condolences with Ma’Khia’s family, friends, and the community at large. The health and well-being of a community can be determined by looking through the lens of Child Welfare. The challenges in the community become the same challenges that Child Welfare fights to overcome. We ask the community to assist us in the fight against the challenges that lead to neglect and abuse. The vast majority of the work in child welfare has many success stories, unknown to the media and public. Caseworkers and those who support them engage because they care deeply about the safety and well-being of children. But when families lack access to care and resources, their prosperity and that of the community is negatively affected. The safety net that child welfare provides for the community must be flexible to withstand the limitations of other systems, and the reality is that no system or combination of systems can prevent all tragedies. Flexibility permits the agency to take advantage of new systems for addressing childhood adversity that are based in safety science and focus on prevention. The needs exacerbated by the documented stresses of the COVID pandemic and nationwide workforce issues are unprecedented. We rely on community partners to assist in minimizing risk to children as much as humanly possible. The agency has and continues to reach out to the state, court, community agencies and service providers to work together as we rethink, develop, and secure placements/services responsive to the diverse and intensive needs of our community’s youth. Through the agency’s collaborations with local law enforcement, DD, ADAMH, NCH and others, we are hopeful that combined creative thinking will result in a robust array of services that will better equip parents, families, and our community to respond to the needs and improve outcomes for today’s youth.”
It went on to state:
“Internally, the agency is committed to system review and reform through membership in the National Partnership for Child Safety, with a focus on safety science. This complements the Family First shift to more front-end preventative solutions. The agency has committed to a culture of safety, in decision-making and review, as have other critical industries including airlines and health care. With this alignment, we are committed to re-examining and replacing interventions to ensure that the services we offer are focused on the safety and well-being of our children.”