Police in Ohio on Friday released bodycam video showing an 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.
Sean Walton, a lawyer representing Ms Young’s family, said the video clearly shows the August 24 shooting of the 21-year-old woman was unjustified and he called for the officer to be fired and charged immediately.
Mr Walton also criticized police for not releasing the video footage for more than a week after the shooting.
“Ta’Kiya’s family is heartbroken,” Mr 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.”
A spokesman for the police union said calls to charge the officer before an investigation is complete are premature.
The officer is on paid administrative leave while the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation examines the shooting, which is standard practice.
GRAPHIC WARNING: Newly released bodycam footage shows Ohio police officer fatally shooting pregnant 21 y/o Ta’Kiya Young after she attempted to run him over
She was suspected of shoplifting alcohol when police confronted her
— DC_Draino (@DC_Draino) September 1, 2023
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.”
Ms 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.
Ms Young’s father, grandmother and other relatives watched the video before its public release and released a statement Friday through Mr 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.
While viewing the video, the family felt “a lot of anger, a lot of frustration,” Mr Walton told The Associated Press.
“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 Ms 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.
Ms Young protests, and the first officer repeats his demand. Ms Young then turns the steering wheel to her right and the car moves toward the officer standing in front of it, who fires his gun through the windshield.
Ms Young’s sedan then drifts into the grocery store’s brick wall.
Officers then break the driver’s side window, which Mr Belford said was to get Ms Young out of the car and render medical aid, though footage of medical assistance was not provided.
In his interview with the AP on Friday, Mr Walton denied that Ms Young had stolen anything from the grocery store. He said his firm found a witness who saw Ms 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, criticised Mr Walton’s characterisation of the shooting as a murder while the investigation is still ongoing and all of the facts have yet to be established.
Mr Steel said in a phone interview that the case will almost certainly be presented to a grand jury for a decision on whether to file charges against the officer, but he declined to say whether Ms Young’s death 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.
Responding to criticism of the delay in releasing the video, Mr Belford said it took time for his small staff to process it and properly redact certain footage, such as officers’ faces and badge numbers, in accordance with Ohio law.
He said the officers’ names cannot be released at this point because they are being treated as assault victims.
He said one of the officer’s arms was still partially in the driver’s side window and a second officer was still standing in front of the car when Ms Young moved the car forward.
Ms Young was expected to give birth to a daughter in November.
Family and friends held a private vigil a day after Ms Young was killed, releasing balloons and lighting candles spelling out “RIP Kiya.”
An online effort to pay her funeral expenses has raised over $7,000. Ta’Kiya’s siblings, cousins, grandmother and father have rallied around her sons, six-year-old Ja’Kobie and three-year-old Ja’Kenlie, Mr Walton said.
“It’s a large family and Ta’Kiya has been snatched away from them,” Mr Walton said. “I think the entire family is still in shock.”