Ohio police released body-camera video Friday that shows officers interacting with a pregnant woman for about one minute before an officer fired a single shot through her windshield, killing her and her unborn baby, after authorities said the woman drove forward into one of the officers.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is reviewing the Aug. 24 shooting and the officer who fired his gun remains on administrative leave, authorities said, while also declining to release the officer’s name. Attorneys representing the family of the slain woman, 21-year-old Ta’Kiya Young, have called for the officer who fired the shot to be identified.
“We demand accountability for the loss of two precious lives, Ta’Kiya and her unborn daughter,” Sean L. Walton, the family’s attorney, said at a news conference Wednesday. “The officer of this department must be held accountable for his actions that escalated this encounter.”
The incident took place in the parking lot of a Kroger’s grocery store in Westerville, Ohio. Body-camera video shows Blendon Township police officers were already in the lot assisting another woman who had been locked out of her car when a store employee approached them and claimed a woman had stolen bottles of alcohol before entering a car parked in a handicap space outside the store.
The video shows one officer approach Young’s driver’s side window, which Young partially rolled down, and repeatedly tell her to exit the car. A second officer then steps in front of the vehicle.
Young can be heard on camera denying that she stole anything and arguing with the officers before turning the wheel of the car.
The officer standing in front of the vehicle then draws his handgun, puts one of his hands on the vehicle’s hood and also orders Young to get out of the car, as it moves forward. The officer is then seen on video shooting once into the windshield, striking Young.
The car continued moving forward after the shot and came to a halt on the sidewalk near the store. Authorities said Young was quickly removed from the car and a nearby emergency medicine physician provided medical aid before EMTs arrived.
Young was pronounced dead at the hospital. Her family told the Columbus Dispatch she was due in November with a girl.
Blendon Township has not named either officer involved in the incident. In a statement, Blendon Township Police Chief John Belford said both officers were placed on administrative leave after the shooting, though the officer who did not fire the shot was later allowed to return to duty.
“A lawsuit is very likely to be filed about this incident. There may be other legal proceedings as well. That’s why we’re very limited in what we can say,” Belford said. “We’re being as transparent and forthcoming as we can, given these significant legal constraints.”
Belford cited provisions of the Ohio Constitution and state law that require authorities to withhold the identity of crime victims absent a waiver, and said both officers and Young are victims in this case, though Young’s family attorney had already identified her.
Belford said Young had driven her car toward the police officer in front of her vehicle, striking him, which made him “a victim of attempted vehicular assault.” The other officer “became a victim of misdemeanor assault” when Young pulled away from him while his hand and part of his arm were still in the driver’s side window, the statement added.
Walton + Brown, LLP, the law firm representing Young’s family, said in a statement that her death was “not only avoidable, but also a gross misuse of power and authority.”
“Her tragic passing has left a void that words can’t describe, especially for her two young sons, who must now grow up without the love and guidance of their mother, and while coming to understand the circumstances that led to her homicide,” the law firm wrote.
Since her death, several vigils have been held in the community. Local activists and protest groups met at the Kroger store where the shooting took place twice last week to call for justice in the shooting, reported USA Today, and tea candles were lit outside Young’s grandmother’s home and arranged to spell out “RIP KIYA.”
“She was so excited to have this little girl,” Nadine Young, the grandmother, said at the news conference Wednesday. “She has her two little boys, but she was so fired up to have this girl. She is going to be so missed.”
Walton, the family’s attorney, had pushed for the release of body-camera video in the days following the incident and argued the situation escalated unnecessarily.
“Whatever Ta’Kiya did that day … it did not deserve the punishment of death,” Walton said. “This is a murder investigation, not a petty theft investigation.”