Air Guard Can't Confirm that Columbus Police Officer Had Marksmanship Badge

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Columbus police shooting protest
Black Lives Matter activists confront Columbus Police outside of Columbus Police headquarters during a protest in reaction to the shooting death of Ma'Khia Bryant on April 20, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (Stephen Zenner/Getty Images)

The Columbus police officer who fatally shot a 16-year-old girl armed with a knife on Tuesday may not have even had an Air Force marksmanship badge from prior service, despite news reports touting his military firearms training.

Nicholas Reardon is a staff sergeant in the Ohio Air National Guard assigned to the 121st Security Forces Squadron, part of the 121st Air Refueling Wing at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base. 

Reardon entered the Guard in 2015, according to career information provided to Military.com Thursday. The Daily Beast was first to report his military connection. 

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According to his record, his awards include a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal; the Ohio National Guard Basic Training Ribbon; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award; and National Defense Service Medal. None of these awards speak to the nature of his individual service; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal have been awarded to every service member since March 12, 2003.

The Daily Beast reported Reardon received an Air Force expert marksman badge with an M4 Carbine. The Beast cited tweets with photos of Reardon at technical training, which follows basic training, where he allegedly earned the ribbon. Photos of Reardon in his dress uniform on social media do appear to show him wearing it. However, the Guard could not verify Reardon received the badge, according to Lt. Col. Devin Robinson, spokesman for the Air National Guard.

"The records we received from the personnel section did not list any marksmanship ribbons or awards," Robinson said Thursday via email. "It is not immediately clear where the [Daily Beast] got their information, as it did not come from us." 

Reardon deployed three times within the U.S. and once overseas, though no specific locations were listed. 

The officer had been responding to a 9-11 domestic disturbance call Tuesday about an attempted stabbing at a home. 

Body camera footage released by Columbus police shows Reardon, a white officer, exiting his vehicle and approaching several individuals engaged in a fight. Reardon then fatally shot 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant, who could be seen in the video wielding a knife against another girl. It is unclear why Reardon did not attempt to use nonlethal force against the Black teen. Two other individuals in the video also were seen fighting.

Bryant died at the scene. 

The incident took place hours after Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. Chauvin pinned Floyd, a Black man, to the ground with his knee last year for more than nine minutes; Floyd's killing sparked protests around the country. 

News of Bryant's death also prompted protests in Columbus on Tuesday.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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