White House press secretary Jen Psaki invoked the phrase “systematic racism” in discussing the fatal police shooting of a 16-year-old Ohio girl who was seen on video attacking another female with a knife just moments before the verdict in a racially charged Minnesota case was announced.
Psaki called the death of Ma’Khia Bryant, who was shot and killed by an unnamed officer as she appeared ready to stab another girl in close proximity to her, “tragic.”
“We know that police violence disproportionately impacts black and Latino people in communities and that black women and girls, like black men and boys, experience higher rates of police violence,” she said.
Bryant, who was black and in foster care, got in a fight with another person who lived in the same foster home on the street, according to Hazel Bryant, her aunt. In the video of the incident, which was captured on the officer’s body camera, Bryant can be seen holding a knife amid a larger altercation occurring on a residential driveway.
The officer can be heard directing the individuals to “get down” as he pulled his weapon. He shot Bryant multiple times as it appeared she was about to swing the blade at the other girl who was pressed up against a car.
“We also know that there are particular vulnerabilities that children in foster care, like Ma’Khia, face, and her death came, as you noted, just as America was hopeful of a step forward after the traumatic and exhausting trial of Derek Chauvin and the verdict that was reached,” Psaki added. “So our focus is on working to address systemic racism and implicit explicit bias head-on and, of course, to passing laws and legislation that will put much-needed reforms into place at police departments around the country.”
President Joe Biden had been briefed on the shooting, Psaki added.
Bryant was shot moments before the verdict was reached in the trial of Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty on three counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in connection to the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man.
Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground after his hands were cuffed behind his back. The officer kept his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, and he later died.
Biden followed the trial, Psaki previously told reporters, and he and Vice President Kamala Harris watched the verdict announcement with staff in the Private Dining Room, the White House said.
Floyd’s killing, along with the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, brought a heightened awareness to questions of police conduct and use of force regulations, especially in regard to minority communities. Following Floyd’s death, there were protests and riots nationwide.