Law enforcement officials around the country have condemned Ohio’s Blendon Township fatal police shooting of pregnant Ta’Kiya Young. Reactions range from “rogue cops” to “sheer incompetence.” They’ve called it “police brutality” and a “potentially criminal act.”
“Our training says you don’t step in front of a vehicle,” retired U.S. Marshal Dr. Matthew Fogg told The Final Call. “The last thing you do is step in front of a vehicle. You don’t do that because the vehicle could move forward, it could run over you. You’re putting yourself at risk. That’s like stepping in front of a loaded gun. All our training says if you’re making a vehicle stop, don’t step in front of vehicles.
“But what happens a lot of times, these rogue cops are trying to have some justifiable reason to kill folks,” he continued. “They step in front of a car with their gun drawn thinking if that driver touches the steering wheel, ‘I can shoot ‘em if they turn the wheel, or whatever.’ The police think they can say, they thought the driver was going to run them over. That officer stepping in front of that vehicle was way out of line.”
Dr. Fogg also explained the officers were investigating a shoplifting accusation. He wondered why the cops pulled their guns. The problem for Black people is once the police approach them, if they move or twitch the wrong way—it doesn’t matter if you’re stealing diapers—the officers will claim they feared for their lives.
“Why are Black people being killed for stuff like shoplifting?” he asked. “As law enforcement, you let the car go, you get the tag number, you get them later. You don’t have to walk up, draw your gun and then say, ‘get out the car, get out.’ Everybody’s aiming at the person. It’s just shoplifting.
“They are in a vehicle and you don’t know what they took and you don’t know what their mindset is. I get that, but you don’t step in front of the vehicle either. When the officer stepped in front of that vehicle, he broke all kinds of departmental policy and procedure. That reminds me of Eric Garner in New York. The officer choked him out and killed him. The officer used a particular choke hold that the New York Police Department had outlawed.”
In the Eric Garner case, officers were told not to use that hold because it can be lethal. The officer did it anyway and was exonerated.
Retired Los Angeles police lieutenantJeff Wenninger has 30 years of experience. His background is in investigations and negotiating lethal force incidents.
“What this officer did to Ta’Kiya Young exposed the inadequate training and sheer incompetence of this officer,” he told the media. “I have seen police brutality, excessive force, and sheer incompetence up close, and I have had a hand in combating it. I saw all of this in the video.
“I would not characterize the actions of the officer who fired the round, killing the 21-year-old pregnant mother and her unborn daughter, as an excessive use of force, because at no point in this encounter was force justified,” he continued. “What I observed was nothing short of a violent, potentially criminal act, perpetrated on nothing more than an uncooperative individual.”
What happened to Ta’Kiya Young?
According to the Blendon Police, two officers were in the parking lot of a Kroger supermarket on August 24, helping a woman locked out of her car, when a Kroger employee approached one of them and said Ms. Young had stolen bottles of alcohol. A witness later came forward saying she did not leave the store with any alcohol.
Ms. Young was a happy young woman in the midst of her third pregnancy. She was an aspiring social worker and mother of two boys, ages six and three. An officer approached her on the driver’s side window saying she was accused of theft. The police body cam shows he repeatedly demanded that she get out of the car. A second officer stood in front of the car.
Ms. Young denies the theft and the first officer repeats his demand. Then both officers yell at her to get out, one draws his gun. At that point, an understandably shaken Ms. Young can be heard asking, “Are you going to shoot me?” seconds before she turns the steering wheel to the right.
The car inches toward the officer standing in front of it. He fires his gun through the windshield. Ms. Young’s car drifts into the grocery store’s brick wall. She and her unborn daughter were rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead shortly after the shooting.
Ms. Young’s family said in a statement that the body-camera footage shows her death was “not only avoidable, but also a gross misuse of power and authority.”
Nadine Young said she believes her granddaughter was terrified.
“I believe he (officer who shot Ta’Kiya) was a bully,” she said at a news conference. “He came at her like a bully, and that scared her with that baby in her stomach.”
Attorney Sean Walton, representing Ms. Young’s family, said the video clearly shows that the shooting was unjustifiable.
“Ta’Kiya’s family is heartbroken,” he told the media. “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.”
John Belford, the Blendon police chief, called Ms. Young’s death “a tragedy in our community.”
“Ms. Young’s family is understandably very upset and grieving,” he said in a statement. “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.
“I immediately requested the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to conduct an independent investigation into the incident. As a result, our department has no role in that investigation, and we will defer any policy or employee discipline review until BCI has completed its work. I placed the officer who fired the shot on administrative leave.”
After Ms. Young’s shooting, the community respondedwith several protests. Her name is the latest added to the list of Blacks killed recently by the Ohio police.
Donnell Muhammad is the Nation of Islam’s Student Minister in Columbus, Ohio, where Ms. Young lived. He told The Final Call, “The chief of police, John Belford, is using a tactic called DARVO, which means deny, attack and reverse victim and offender positions. They’re trying to make it look like the cops are the victims and that she was trying to run them down. Even in their doctored videos, it is clear to see that she did not accelerate. She simply put the car in gear.”
“They didn’t ask her nicely,” he continued. “They approached her car with guns already drawn, saying ‘get the f*** out the car, banging on the windshield, pulling on the window because it was partly down,” he said. “She put her car in gear and turned to the right, which means she was trying to avoid the officer and just eased up.”
Next came the harrowing gun shot that killed Ms. Young.
Chief Belford has not released the names of the two officers, saying that they, along with Ms. Young, were “possible crime victims” whose identities cannot be released without a waiver under the Ohio Constitution and a state law known as Marsy’s Law, or the Ohio Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights.
He explained the officer who shot Ms. Young was a “victim of attempted vehicular assault.” The officer who was standing next to the car had his hand and part of his arm in the window when Ms. Young drove forward, making him “a victim of misdemeanor assault,” the chief told the media.
Mr. Walton explained the officer violated department policy, which states that officers should take reasonable steps to move out of the path of a vehicle instead of firing.
The city’s response makes no sense to Student Minister Muhammad.
“The police are revealing nothing about the background of the cops who did this, but they are telling everything about Ta’Kiya. She was only 21 years old. They’re trying to blow up her life to make the victim the guilty party—that she deserved to be executed. Even if she did steal some liquor, the punishment is not execution,” he said.
“They had video surveillance inside the Kroger store,” he explained. “If they really wanted to know if she was involved, they could have easily played that back and the problem could have been resolved. There’s a policy on the books that if it’s a nonviolent offense, a misdemeanor, they could have followed her home. They could have trailed her, even if she didn’t want to get out of the car. It never should have escalated to the point of shooting at all or any firearms being brandished at all because of an alleged offense.”