The White House called the police killing of a Black teenage girl in Ohio, which occurred moments before a guilty verdict was announced in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, a tragedy.
“The killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant by the Columbus police is tragic,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family in the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss.”
She added that police violence disproportionately impacts Black and Latino people, and that “Black women and girls, like Black men and boys, experience higher rates of police violence.”
Ms Psaki said the White House also acknowledges vulnerabilities facing children in foster care, like Ma’Khia.
“Her death came just as America was hopeful for a step forward after the traumatic” trial for the murder of Mr Floyd, she added.
“Our focus is on addressing systemic racism and implicit bias head on and of course to pass laws and legislation that will put much needed reform in police departments across the country,” she said.
Police bodycam footage released after Tuesday’s shooting showed an officer in Columbus, Ohio fatally shooting Ma’Khia with seconds of approaching a group of people in a home’s driveway.
The officer yelled out to “get down” as a person moved into view with what appeared to be a knife and pressed another person against a car. The officer then fired four shots.
Interim Columbus police chief Michael Woods told reporters on Tuesday that officers were responding to an emergency 911 call from someone who reported an attempted stabbing.
Mr Biden has sought to place racial equity at the centre of his agenda, including a proposed overhaul of American law enforcement.
In a national address on Tuesday evening, president Biden called Mr Floyd’s death “a murder in full light of day” that “ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see” the scope of systemic racism in the US, after his murder galvanised an international call for accountability and justice for the police killings of Black Americans.
“For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability,” he said of the verdict.
After quietly abandoning plans for a White House-led national commission on police oversight, the president is putting political capital behind the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which faces an uncertain path in an evenly divided Senate after clearing the Democrat-controlled House.
Mr Biden has appointed civil rights attorneys Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke to lead critical civil rights roles within the Justice Department, and the agency – which has lifted a Trump-era policy effectively blocking federal consent decrees into local law enforcement – will probe the Minneapolis Police Department.
A federal civil rights investigation into the killing of Mr Floyd is ongoing, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Tuesday.