NEWS & ANALYSIS

Florida Dem Lawmaker Defends Officer in Ma’Khia Bryant Shooting


In an interview Sunday, Democratic Florida Rep. Val Demings weighed in on the Ma’Khia Bryant shooting, saying the officer seemed to respond the way he was trained to. 

Demings, a former Orlando police chief, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that she came to conclusions based on the “limited information” available after viewing the bodycam footage. 

“When I served as police chief, what I prayed for daily was that my police officers would respond as they are trained to do,” she said. “Now, after every incident, we would have to go back and look at our policies and make sure that the policies met the moment.” 

Demings acknowledged the tragedy, calling it a “sad moment,” but also empathized with officers having to make tough calls on the street. 

“Look, I worked as a social worker with foster care children, so it’s a sad moment for me. But, I also was a patrol officer who was out there in the street having to make those split second decisions.” 

She said that while everyone has the ability to slow down video footage after-the-fact, police officers have to make split-second decisions. 

“Now, everybody has the benefit of slowing the video down and seizing the perfect moment. The officer on the street does not have that ability. He or she has to make those split second decisions and they’re tough,” she said. “But, the limited information that I know in viewing the video, it appears that the officer responded as he was trained to do with the main thought of preventing a tragedy and a loss of life of the person who was about to be assaulted.”

Nicholas Reardon is the officer who responded to the scene after Ma’Khia Bryant called 911 asking for assistance. 

“We need a police officer here now,” a girl is heard telling a 911 operator in one recording, as yelling is heard in the background. “We got these … grown girls over here, trying to fight us.”

As the altercation escalated, Reardon drew his weapon, as shown in the bodycam footage. Police said the video shows a girl trying to stab another to the ground. Reardon fired four shots. 

Police picked up what appeared to be a knife near the girl’s body, and an officer can be heard on camera saying: “she had a knife, she just went at her.” 

While he faced backlash from bystanders who said he should’ve tried to de-escalate the situation, he was commended by the national Fraternal Order of Police for “an act of heroism, but one with tragic results.”