Ma’Khia Bryant and Daunte Wright killed

Two high-profile cases intensify significance of the Chauvin trial, with heightened focus on justice for African Americans


Composite by Hunter O'Connor; photos by Lorie Shaull, Andrew Ratto, Paul Becker via Flickr licensed by Creative Commons

Exhausting Proclamation: Citizens gather in protest to advocate for equal treatment of minorities and justice for those that were unjustly killed. Ma’khia Bryant was killed by police officers after calling for help, which caused another wave of protests. “I think the basis of the system is corrupt and that the system shouldn’t be built to where an innocent young woman could be shot and killed,” senior Ryan Van Der Put said.

On Tuesday, April 20 in Columbus, Ohio, 16 year old African American Ma’Khia Bryant called police pleading for help because she was being attacked by girls in her neighborhood. Once police officers arrived at the scene, they saw Bryant with a knife, lunging at one of the girls trying to attack her, and that was when one of the officers shot Bryant four times.

While a great deal of misinformation has been spread, it is important to acknowledge the facts of what really happened on the scene.

Body cam sources have identified the following: Bryant had the knife in hand, not on the ground when police arrived at the scene, and according to some sources she had the knife in hand as a form of self defense.

A crucial piece of this story that drew the attention of the public was the fact that the shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant was just a few hours after the Derek Chauvin trial had come to an end, where Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd.

Students have been following these high-profile cases, and they are aggravated and disappointed in law enforcement. Senior Ryan Van Der Put thinks that the Chauvin trial was just one of many injustices and that the system is still broken.

“I was very frustrated. After a long time coming of the Derek Chauvin trial, I was so glad to see justice finally brought to George Floyd. To then see a CHILD shot by the police broke my heart. I have respect for law enforcement, but this just proves that changes need to be made, and it needs to happen now. Our system is imperfect and has been for a long time,” senior Kennadee Nelson said.

With the shooting of Bryant on the heels of the Derek Chauvin trial, the question arises of whether or not justice for Black lives is truly progressing or not. Several students believe that more awareness is being spread around the subject of police brutality and systemic racism, but there is still immeasurably more work to be done on law enforcement’s end.

A couple weeks prior to the shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, on April 11, a 20 year old African American man, Daunte Wright was fatally shot and killed by police officer Kimberly Potter.

According to various sources including Wright’s mother, Wright was pulled over because he had expired car registration tabs, but he also had an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. The state of Minnesota prohibits drivers from having any hanging objects on their rearview mirror where it might impair their view of the road.

According to Wright’s mother, he was told he was being pulled over because of his air freshener, and that is what Wright told his mother on the phone moments before he was shot.

The leading topic of discussion about Wright’s murder focuses on the police officer who shot him, and whether she actually meant to shoot him or tase him. Potter was quick to resign after she shot and killed Wright, but the city’s police chief claims that Potter meant to fire her taser at Wright and not her gun.

A lot of controversy has sparked out of the issue, and some people are not believing the excuse of mistaking a gun for a taser when they are different weights and on different sides of the body.

“I believe that the gun mistaken for a taser is just an excuse. A gun has a safety lock on it, it weighs more, and is different in size. There is just no way it was that simple,” Nelson said.

Potter was also training another officer when she shot and killed Wright. Many people are angry and confused as to how she could possibly make that mistake given her larger level of responsibility.

With the recent incidents and years of history about systemic racism in law enforcement the people of the U.S. are looking to law enforcement in hopes of changes in the system that police departments can make.

Both Van Der Put and Nelson believe that law enforcement needs to train their officers better, for longer, and with knowledge of the execution of equal treatment and force.

“They should have way less access to military-grade weapons and should have a tight recruitment process that ensures that only competent and just officers make it through the hiring process,” Van Der Put said.

Police brutality towards African Americans in our country has been a reoccurring issue, without much change being made. It has come to light for more people throughout the last couple of years, especially 2020 with the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more. Some people have different opinions on what the most substantial cause of police brutality in our country is.

Senior Makenna Hoag thinks the cause of police brutality is simple.

“The biggest cause of police brutality in our country is the lack of accountability and prosecution,” said Hoag.

Nelson and Van der put believe police brutality is also racially motivated, along with racial profiling being a significant cause.
“I think it is the distrust and disconnection between law enforcement and Black and brown people,” said Nelson.

The people of the United States want justice to be served for every innocent Black life that has been taken, along with significant changes to be made in law enforcement. The shootings of African Americans adds to the conversation of what future police training could look like so that these events do not keep reoccurring. Many Americans hope that in the future the police officers of our country will use consistently use their power with responsibility, not abuse.