Ohio authorities on Friday released bodycam video showing a police officer fatally shooting Ta’Kiya Young in her car in what her family denounced as a “gross misuse of power and authority” against the pregnant Black mother. Young was expected to give birth to a daughter in November. Family and friends held a private vigil a day after Young was killed, releasing balloons and lighting candles spelling out “RIP Kiya.”
Sean Walton, an attorney representing Young’s family, said the video clearly shows that the August 24 shooting of the 21-year-old woman was “unjustified” and he called for the officer to be fired and charged immediately. Walton also criticised police for not releasing the video footage for more than a week after the shooting.
“Ta’Kiya’s family is heartbroken,” Walton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The video did nothing but confirm their fears that Ta’Kiya was murdered unjustifiably … and it was just heartbreaking for them to see Ta’Kiya having her life taken away under such ridiculous circumstances.”
Fatal shootings of blacks are not new in US
Young’s death follows a troubling series of fatal shootings of Black adults and children by Ohio police and numerous occurrences of police brutality against Black people across the nation in recent years, events that have prompted widespread protests and demands for police reform.
The officer who shot Young is on paid administrative leave while the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation examines the shooting, which is standard practice. A police union official said calls to charge the officer before an investigation is complete are premature. A second officer who was on the scene has returned to active duty. Their names, races and ranks have not been released.
Blendon Township Police Chief John Belford called the shooting a tragedy. “Ms. Young’s family is understandably very upset and grieving,” he said in a written statement released Friday morning. “While none of us can fully understand the depths of their pain, all of us can remember them in our prayers and give them the time and space to deal with this heartbreaking turn of events.”
Young’s father, grandmother and other relatives watched the video before its public release and released a statement Friday through Walton. “It is undeniable that Ta’Kiya’s death was not only avoidable but also a gross misuse of power and authority,” the statement said.
Police action has no justification
While viewing the video, the family felt “a lot of anger, a lot of frustration,” Walton told the AP. “More than anything, there was … a sense of just devastation, to know that this power system, these police officers, could stop her and so quickly take her life for no justifiable reason.”
The video shows an officer at the driver’s side window telling Young she has been accused of theft and repeatedly demanding that she get out of the car. A second officer is standing in front of the car.
Young protests and the first officer repeats his demand. Then both officers yell at her to get out. At that point, Young can be heard asking them, “Are you going to shoot me?” seconds before she turns the steering wheel to the right and the car moves toward the officer standing in front of it. The officer fires his gun through the windshield and Young’s sedan drifts into the grocery store’s brick wall.
Officers then broke the driver’s side window, which Belford said was to get Young out of the car and render medical aid, though footage of medical assistance was not provided.
Family denies Young had stolen anything from a departmental store
In his interview with the AP on Friday, Walton denied that Young had stolen anything from the grocery store. He said his firm found a witness who saw Young put down bottles of alcohol as she left the store.
“The bottles were left in the store,” he said. “So when she’s in her car denying that, that’s accurate. She did not commit any theft, and so these officers were not even within their right to place her under arrest, let alone take her life.”
Brian Steel, executive vice president of the union representing Blendon Township police, criticized Walton’s characterisation of the shooting as murder before all the facts were in. He said an investigation will determine whether the shooting was justified. “The fact is, (the officer) had to make a split-second decision while in front of a moving vehicle, a 2,000-pound weapon,” he said. But Edward Obayashi, a national use-of-force expert and attorney who specialises in vehicle-related police shootings, said that while the officer who shot Young may have reasonably feared for his safety, it went against all his law enforcement training to be in front of her car in the first place..