COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, younger sister called 911 weeks before Bryant’s fatal shooting by a Columbus police officer, claiming the girls had a fight and wanted are leaving their foster homes, according to records.
“I don’t want to be here anymore,” the girl told a police dispatcher, adding that she had been home for over a year.
The 911 call was one of more than a dozen people placed from the Columbus foster home since 2017, most by Angela Moore – the home’s foster mother – seeking help from the girls in reception who left without permission or did not return after being absent, according to documents and 911 calls obtained by The Associated Press through a registration request.
Ma’Khia Bryant was shot four times on April 20 by Constable Nicholas Reardon as she swung a knife at a young woman just seconds after pushing another woman to the ground. Bryant was black and Reardon was white.
The shooting has further increased tension in the Ohio capital over deadly police shootings against blacks, which have included three other high-profile deaths since December. A week after Bryant’s death, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther called on the Justice Department to examine the police department for possible “racial deficiencies and disparities.”
But Bryant’s murder also shed light on the state’s foster care system, with an attorney representing the family of the murdered teenager calling for an investigation into the system and whether the girls in the foster home were properly supervised.
“The whole world has put Ma’Khia on trial based on this incident where they see her swinging a knife,” lawyer Michelle Martin said this week. “But why don’t we look further and find out who these girls were? How did they get there? How did it develop so quickly?”
She added: “What trauma was not addressed at home? I mean so many questions that need to be answered.”
Bryant had only been home since February, but Martin said she had been in the foster care system for too long.
The treatment of black children through the Ohio foster care system is already under intense scrutiny. Last month, a review commissioned by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine found he was steeped in racial inequity.
Among other findings, the children’s service system has at times failed to value the voices and experiences of blacks and foster parents ill-equipped to raise multiracial families, which sometimes results in children whose families they are in charge are victims of racism.
The system has also left young foster children unprepared for adulthood and foster parents are struggling to help them, according to the report. In response, the state launched a new approach to recruiting and retaining foster parents and ordered social workers to undergo racial equity training.
Proponents say the review has barely scratched the surface of the racial inequity that permeates every corner of the system.
“The Ohio foster care system has failed Ma’Khia on many levels,” said Dot Erickson-Anderson, administrator of the Ohio Family Care Association advocacy group. “It’s a system that has struggled for a long time with our image of what a family is.”
But Erickson-Anderson, who is also a former foster parent, said Franklin County, where Bryant lived, is actually one of the best counties in the state in terms of fighting “racism that is. embedded ”in the system.
Records show that the children in Moore’s care were all black, as was Moore. Records regarding foster homes and their parents are not public under state law. Moore was left with a message on Friday.
During the March 28 911 call by Bryant’s sister, the 15-year-old told police she wanted to be taken to another house.
Informed that the police could not do something, “the victim then became angry and said if she could not leave she was going to kill someone at the house,” a police report said. The girl was then taken to the hospital for an assessment.
The 15-year-old sister attended a press conference on April 28 calling for investigation but made no comment.
Police have collected at least 13 reports of children in foster care who have been missing from the home since 2017 or other issues at home, according to records.
– An 18-year-old woman told police on February 12, 2017 that she was going to kill herself because Moore wouldn’t let her go. Moore said the woman’s biological mother was at home trying to take her daughter away.
–A July 6, 2018 report from Moore that a child at home since March had left with a friend and had not returned.
–A July 13, 2019 report from Moore that two foster children, aged 14 and 17, had left the home.
–A Nov 8, 2020 report from Moore that a 13-year-old foster girl left the house after an argument with the foster mother.
–A Dec. 9, 2020 report from Moore that she needed a 10-year-old boy kidnapped for dropping things on a Christmas tree. “He is 10 years old. It turns on me, ”Moore said on a 911 call over the boy’s screams.
–An April 7 report from Moore – just two weeks before Bryant’s fatal shooting – that a 13-year-old adopted daughter had left home.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when kids leave their foster home because they’re usually not happy to be there in the first place, said Michelle Johnson-Motoyama, professor at the Ohio College of Social Work. State University.
“Most of the kids want to go home, regardless of what might have happened in that house,” Johnson-Motoyama said. “They want to go back to their friends, they want to go back to their schools, whatever is familiar to them.”
Two days after her shooting, Franklin County Children’s Services said they had an obligation to make changes.
“We are committed to ensuring that our programs and services best meet the needs and concerns of those we serve,” the agency said. “We continue our efforts to dismantle the practices that have historically created barriers for those who are marginalized, especially our children.”
The agency did not return a message requesting comment on the police records. The agency called Bryant’s death a “tragic loss.”
A funeral for the 16-year-old was underway Friday afternoon at God’s First Church in Columbus, where two more funerals have been held in recent months for blacks shot by police, including Andre Hill.
Critics of police use of force and witnesses to Bryant’s shooting – including Bryant’s father and grandmother – demanded to know why the officer did not use other tactics to keep Bryant from shooting him, like deploying a stun gun.
But many use-of-force experts and even some civil rights attorneys said the officer took his training and may have saved the girl Bryant was attacking. The National Fraternal Order of Police called the shooting “an act of heroism, but with tragic results.”
Associated Press writer Julie Carr Smyth contributed to this Columbus report. Farnoush Amiri is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on secret issues.