- The family of Ma’Khia Bryant, who was killed by police in Columbus, Ohio, is in talks with a lawyer.
- Bryant’s cousin told Insider the family believes the foster system failed the 16-year-old girl.
- Deja Torrence said Bryant loved hair and makeup and dreamed of owning a beauty business someday.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The family of Ma’Khia Bryant, the 16-year-old girl who a police officer shot and killed on Tuesday outside her foster home, wants accountability for the teenager’s death and is weighing legal action.
Bryant called the police for help when two women showed up at her foster home in Columbus, Ohio, and fought with her, Deja Torrence, a cousin, told Insider on Friday.
Torrence said her mother, Hazel Bryant, and Bryant’s biological mother, Paula, had spoken throughout the week, including Friday morning. They are talking with a lawyer and want to take legal action, she said.
“Someone has to be held accountable,” Torrence told Insider. “The family just doesn’t want this to be another senseless killing that goes under the rug and gets overlooked.”
Torrence didn’t specify who the family wanted to take legal action against or when it planned to take those steps. But she said her cousin was failed by the foster system, which had custody of her at the time of her death.
The police in Columbus released body-camera footage earlier this week showing Bryant pushing a girl to the ground outside the foster home before swinging at another girl with what the police said was a knife. The video then shows an officer, identified as Nicholas Reardon, shooting Bryant, who died at a hospital.
Reardon has been taken off street duty, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is looking into the shooting.
The police also released audio of two 911 calls related to Bryant’s shooting but did not identify the women who made those calls.
Torrence said that it wasn’t in Bryant’s character to be violent and that the family believed Bryant had felt her life was in serious danger. Torrence said she and Hazel Bryant, who was especially close with Ma’Khia, had talked to the girl about the importance of knowing when to walk away from a conflict and control her emotions.
Bryant knew not to go near a weapon unless her life was in jeopardy, Torrence said.
“We’re talking about a kid. She’s a kid. She’s 16 defending herself from 20-something-year-olds,” Torrence, 29, said. “If I felt threatened, if I felt that a group of individuals was coming on my property where I lived to fight me, I would get whatever I needed to protect myself.”
Bryant’s family believes the foster system failed her
Bryant’s biological family has not been in contact with her foster family since her death, Torrence told Insider.
The teen had told her biological family several times about issues at the foster home, Torrence said, without sharing details. Torrence said she didn’t know what she was legally allowed to discuss about her cousin’s time in the foster system.
“There’s been some talk about the foster family in the past, of how she’s had issues with the foster family. So as a family, we’ve tried to kind of navigate that over the years,” Torrence said. “I haven’t been in contact with them, but I want people to know that we should be holding somebody accountable for the 16-year-old kid’s death.”
She added, “They had custody of her, and so I just feel like the foster parents, and everyone in the foster system that was involved, failed her in that regard.”
Bryant’s foster mother, Angela Moore, told CNN that two of her former foster children had come to her home to celebrate her birthday on Tuesday and argued with Bryant about the house being messy before the police arrived. Moore told CNN she was at work at the time of the shooting.
Moore didn’t immediately return a call from Insider.
An email sent to a spokesman for the foster system also was not immediately returned. In Ohio, the foster system is state-supervised and county-run.
“Ma’Khia has had a hard life, and we don’t get to choose the life that we’re brought into, and that’s OK,” Torrence said. “But I want people to know that she’s had it rough.”
Bryant was a ‘girly girl’ who wanted to open a beauty studio
When Torrence was younger, there was a short period when her younger cousin lived with her, she told Insider. She remembered that even as a kid Bryant was passionate about playing with makeup and hair accessories.
For a while, Bryant was struggling to figure out how to style her “thick, curly hair,” and Torrence encouraged her to embrace it, she said. She was happy to see that her cousin finally became comfortable flaunting her natural hair.
Torrence said that as Bryant got older, she would spend a lot of her time on social media, including TikTok, making videos about cosmetology. Bryant had planned on using that passion to make a better life for herself as an adult, her cousin said.
“She’s always been a girly girl and has always been into hair and eyebrows and makeup,” Torrence said. “I’m a lot older than her, but I just remember, like, always telling her, ‘Girl, you’re too young to be thinking about this.'”
Bryant told her cousin it was her dream to go to cosmetology school and open her own eyebrow-and-lash studio.
“That was her plan that was just tragically cut short,” Torrence said. “The family is just saddened, just to have all of those aspirations and those dreams to be cut short because of the simplest killing. The family is really hurting right now.”