Police shot and killed Ta’Kiya Young and her unborn daughter. Now they’re playing the ‘victim.’

OPINION: A police officer in Blendon Township, Ohio, shot and killed the 21-year-old pregnant woman after she was accused of stealing alcohol from a Kroger grocery store. 

Ta'Kiya Young shooting, theGrio.com
Friends comfort each other at a private candlelight vigil Friday, Aug. 25, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio, held for 21-year-old Ta'Kiya Young, who was shot and killed a day earlier by Blendon Township police outside an Ohio supermarket. Young was pregnant and due to give birth in November, according to her family. (Courtney Hergesheimer/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

The police in Blendon Township, Ohio, are already hard at work building a case for victim-blaming and making Ta’Kiya Young responsible for her own death while simultaneously framing the cop who killed her and her unborn daughter as the victim.

Before we even knew the details of what happened during that Aug. 24 shooting and well before the release of police bodycam footage on Friday, the Columbus Dispatch had already given us a synopsis of Ta’Kiya’s life story, including the fact that she was a teenage mother to two sons, 6-year-old Ja’Kobie and 3-year-old Ja’Kenli. At the time she was killed, Ta’Kiya was seven months pregnant with her third child, a girl who was due to be born in November. 

The Dispatch made sure to mention Ta’Kiya Young had some minor criminal infractions in her past and that on the day she died, the grandmother who raised her had called the police on her to report her for violating a protection order, and a misdemeanor charge was filed against Ta’Kiya. 

None of that matters in the context of the police officer shooting and killing her, but we are being fed this information anyway because whenever a Black person is the victim of an extrajudicial killing by a police officer, there is an immediate rush to dehumanize them and make them less sympathetic in the eyes of the public. 

The fact is, the police didn’t know anything about Ta’Kiya Young when they approached her to follow up on an accusation made by a Kroger employee that Young had shoplifted alcohol from the store. 

The officers didn’t even know if she had actually taken anything from the store, yet she was dead within a minute of her interaction with them. 

Alleged shoplifting is not an offense punishable by death, but it was for Ta’Kiya Young and her unborn daughter. 

Initial police narrative makes cop who killed Ta’Kiya Young a victim

In a video statement on Aug. 25, Chief John Belford said two officers were assisting a person who was locked out of their car in the Kroger parking lot when one of the store’s employees flagged them down, pointed out Young, and accused her of stealing multiple bottles of liquor. 

Belford said, “A Kroger employee pointed out to one of the officers that someone who had stolen bottles of alcohol from the store was at that moment fleeing. Store employees later reported that several suspects had been stealing items but that the other suspects had fled in other cars.”

Hm. I wonder if that “later” detail came after the police shot and killed Ta’Kiya?

Ta'Kiya Young shooting, theGrio.com
Sandriana McBroom, right, and Makhiya Mcbroom, center, light candles that spell out “RIP Kiya” at a vigil held Friday, Aug. 25, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio, for their friend, Ta’Kiya Young, 21, who was shot and killed a day earlier by Blendon Township police outside an Ohio supermarket. Young was pregnant and due to give birth in November, according to her family. (Courtney Hergesheimer/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

Belford then said, “However, this particular female suspect who had been pointed out to the officer was in a Lexus sedan with no license plates and parked in a handicapped spot right in front of the store. The woman started the car. One officer approached from the driver’s side and ordered the woman to stop and get out of the car.”

“She ignored the order,” Belford continued, “and another officer came from in front of the car and also ordered the woman to get out of the car. Despite being ordered to get out of the car more than a dozen times, she refused to do so.”

“The woman put the car in gear and accelerated forward. The officer directly in the path of the oncoming car fired one shot through the front windshield.”

By implying that Ta’Kiya tried to run over the officer who killed her, the police employ a classic tactic — DARVO, which means “deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender.”

In this case, while there is no denying the officer shot and killed Ta’Kiya Young, there is a clear deflection happening and a rush to put out a narrative that aligns with the usual “I feared for my life” line that cops use whenever they shoot and kill an unarmed Black person. 

Belford is building the case that the cop allegedly feared for his life because Ta’Kiya Young was supposedly trying to run him down with her car. 

“The body camera that I’ve reviewed also confirms that the officer was directly in the path of the car,” Belford said.  

Police chief demonizes Ta’Kiya Young

The incident is currently under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” Belford said, “I placed both officers on administrative leave.”

Immediately after that statement, Belford went right back into victim-shaming mode and said, “While this woman had previously been charged with crimes involving theft and fleeing from the police, our officers did not know that at the time.”

Now why did he feel the need to insert that little tidbit of information in there when it is completely immaterial to the investigation and the shooting? 

The question is rhetorical. We know why. It’s to further dehumanize Ta’Kiya Young and justify the actions of her killer. 

There is a certain demographic of people who are going to hear those unrelated details and automatically assume Ta’Kiya Young deserved to be shot and killed that day.  

Revealing that type of information about Black victims of extrajudicial killing by the police is par for the course. It’s a way to stigmatize them in public in service of defending the actions of police officers who make themselves judge, jury, and executioner.

And while everything Belford said in his video statement is an important note in the killing of Ta’Kiya Young, the most egregious and most damning of them all comes near the end. 

I’m going to put what Belford said in a block quote, and I’m going to bold the parts of his statement that I want you to pay particular attention to:

“We will release the body camera footage of this incident as soon as the necessary legal redactions can be made. Recent changes in Ohio law regarding the rights of victims to have personally identifying information protected, as well as statutory redactions of certain items that must be blurred, make the release of this kind of video complicated. Nonetheless, we act with as much transparency as we legally can.

Belford ended his video by saying “We are committed to transparency and accountability in everything we do.”

 Transparency is a lie. 

Police narrative ‘shields’ officer who killed Ta’Kiya Young

When Belford spoke of the Ohio law “regarding the rights of victims to have personally identifying information protected,” he wasn’t talking about Ta’Kiya Young and her rights or personally identifying information. 

He was referring to the cops. 

Many states around the country have added Marsy’s Law to their books as a means of providing protection to victims of violent crimes, including protecting their identities. The law was added to the Ohio State Constitution in April.

The problem is police officers have been leaning on the law to protect their own identities when they shoot and kill people during otherwise nonviolent interactions with the public. 

John Belford and the Blendon Township police are abusing Marsy’s Law to protect the identity of both the officer who shot and killed Ta’Kiya Young as well as the officer who first approached her, while simultaneously publishing her previous interactions with police in the media. 

The claim that Ta’Kiya Young tried to “run down” the officer in front of her car is being used to build a false narrative that the officer who killed Ta’Kiya Young is the true victim, and in their eyes, she got what she had coming to her. 

Ta’Kiya Young is the real victim here

Police released the body camera footage from both officers on Friday. It is both graphic and disturbing. 

The video shows one officer standing at Young’s driver-side window telling her to get out of the car. She repeatedly asks him why, and he repeats his order for her to get out of the car a few times before explaining that the store employee has accused her of stealing. 

A second officer can be seen coming around to stand in front of her vehicle. He approaches at about the 12-second mark, he’s in front of the vehicle at the 14-second mark, and by the 20-second mark, his gun is already drawn. 

By the 24-second mark, he has already shot her, and you can hear a scream as she is shot. 

He shot and killed her within 12 seconds of “interacting” with her, and I put that in quotes because all he did was yell for her to get out of the car before immediately pointing his gun at her. 

I’m going to remind you that all of this is happening over an accusation of shoplifting. 

Not a bank robbery. Not a murder. Not any sort of violent crime. He pointed a gun at her because she was a young Black woman accused of shoplifting. 

Belford claimed Ta’Kiya Young “accelerated” toward the officer, but the video contradicts that. 

In the video, she is clearly seen turning her steering wheel away from the officer as the vehicle slowly moves forward. Those are not the actions of someone who is trying to run down a police officer. Those are the actions of someone who appeared to be trying to drive around him. 

Still, the officer puts his hand on the hood of her vehicle and stands directly in her path as she tries to leave. 

This is in direct violation of the Blendon Township Use of Force policy which states the following: 

“When feasible, officers should take reasonable steps to move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants. An officer should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the officer reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the imminent threat of the vehicle, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the officer or others. Officers should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.”

The officer who shot and killed Ta’Kiya Young had plenty of time, space and opportunity to get out of the way of her vehicle. They could have followed her in their car if they were that serious about finding out if she stole liquor or not. 

Instead, he chose to shoot and kill her, and then he yelled at her to stop her car from moving as she was inside taking what would be some of the last breaths on earth for herself and her unborn daughter. 

Funnily enough, while they are revealing all these details about Ta’Kiya Young’s past, I haven’t seen one news report confirm that “stolen alcohol” was actually found on her person or in her car. 

Ta’Kiya Young was shot and killed over alleged shoplifting. 

She is the real victim here.

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.

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