Shoplifting is not a capital offense, but Ta’Kiya Young died for it
OPINION: Newly released videos appear to show Young stealing alcohol, and people seem to think that justifies police killing her.
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 dehumanization of Black victims of extrajudicial killings by the police is nothing new.
We are used to this by now. It’s par for the course. For every harmful thing the police do to one of us, there is a chorus of whiteness there to defend it and justify it.
It’s the way whiteness works in America.
When Ta’Kiya Young was shot and killed by a police officer in Blendon Township, Ohio, he didn’t know if she had actually stolen anything. All he knew was that someone accused her of stealing something. There was no investigation. There was no arrest. There were no charges filed against her. There was no trial.
At that moment, the police officer was the judge, jury and executioner based on a simple accusation.
It is important that we not lose sight of that.
A police officer violated his department’s use of force policy. He shot and killed a woman who had been accused of what would have likely amounted to a misdemeanor. She wasn’t accused of a violent crime. She wasn’t armed. She wasn’t dangerous. She was a young Black woman who was seven months pregnant and was accused of shoplifting.
She didn’t deserve to die.
On Friday, Blendon Township released additional body camera footage as well as in-store security camera footage that shows what led up to a police officer shooting and killing Ta’Kiya Young on Aug. 24.
The store surveillance footage shows a woman identified as Ta’Kiya Young putting liquor into a tote bag that she is carrying. Later in the released video clips, she leaves the store with two other women who are also accused of shoplifting.
As seen in the previously released footage, it is as Young is getting into her car that a Kroger employee comes out and tells the police officers, who are assisting someone who has locked their keys in their car, that Ta’Kiya Young stole something from the store.
As one officer stands at her window telling her to get out of the car, another moves to the front of her vehicle. He already has his gun out and points it at her, demanding she get out of her car.
The idea that he would pull a gun out on someone who is accused of shoplifting alcohol should be disturbing to us all.
White teenagers have been stealing alcohol since the beginning of modern times. It’s like a rite of passage for them that has been glorified in movies and television shows forever. We hear stories about it happening all of the time, but you know what we don’t hear about?
Them being shot and killed by police over it. It’s never depicted in movies or television either, and that’s because it doesn’t happen.
When white people get accused of shoplifting, it’s treated like the petty crime it is.
When Black people get accused of anything, they are suddenly Public Enemy No. 1.
And before you rush over here to say she was trying to run the cop over with her car, let me save you the trouble.
We all saw how slowly she was moving that car, and we all saw her actively turning the steering wheel away from both officers. She wasn’t trying to run either of them over.
At the slow speed she was going, she wouldn’t have been able to run over a speed bump, let alone an out-of-shape, trigger-happy police officer.
Whiteness is always going to find a way to excuse the ways of whiteness because that is exactly how whiteness works.
So a police officer shooting and killing a Black woman and using the excuse that she tried to kill him as a shield for his own culpability in her death is par for the course unfortunately.
He and his partner are being cast as the true victims in this story instead of Ta’Kiya Young and her unborn daughter — the two people he shot and killed in his haste to put a Black woman in her place.
Because ultimately, that’s what it is all about.
White people get “protect and serve” policing. Black people get “law and order.”
Ta’Kiya Young was accused of breaking a law, and she did not immediately follow the order of a police officer, so he needed to become overly aggressive toward her to remind her that he was the one in charge.
That was the only reason he had his gun out. Police escalate minor situations and turn them into aggressive interactions.
This officer then violated the Blendon Township police department’s use of force policy, which states, “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.”
The officer wasn’t in imminent danger, and there was no deadly force directed at him or anyone else. He could have stepped away from in front of her car, but he chose not to.
He chose instead to shoot her. His decision at that moment ended the life of a 21-year-old Black woman and her unborn daughter — over a couple of bottles of liquor.
There are always going to be people who will find a way to blame Ta’Kiya Young for her own death. It’s what they do any time anything happens to one of us.
I wrote this to remind everyone that shoplifting is not a capital offense. No one should die for it, but Ta’Kiya Young did.
A police officer who had only been in her presence for 12 seconds shot and killed her.
He didn’t know her name. He didn’t know she was pregnant and due to have a baby girl in two months. He didn’t know she had previously been accused of petty crimes. He didn’t even know if she had actually stolen any liquor.
In the moment he pulled his gun on Ta’Kiya Young while yelling for her to get out of her car, all he knew was she had been accused of stealing from a grocery store, and he decided that was enough to warrant aggressively pulling a gun on her and threatening her life — a life he eventually took.
Ta’Kiya Young didn’t harm anyone. She didn’t kill anyone. She wasn’t accused of murder or any other violent crime.
Ta’Kiya Young should still be alive today.
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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