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Police fatally shot a pregnant Black woman in Ohio. The calls for accountability are growing.

Ta’Kiya Young’s fatal shooting — and bodycam footage — renews scrutiny of police violence.

Nadine Young, paternal grandmother of Ta’Kiya Young, looks at photographs of her granddaughter and family members at the law offices of the family attorney in Columbus, Ohio, on September 6, 2023. 
AP Photo/Patrick Orsagos
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Ta’Kiya Young, an aspiring social worker and 21-year-old pregnant Black woman, was killed by Ohio police outside a Kroger grocery store in Blendon Township, Ohio, on August 24. Young’s killing has once again spotlighted the pervasiveness of police violence and the racial disparities in who law enforcement harms, reviving questions about the need for more accountability.

Young’s family has said the officer’s actions were a “criminal act,” while the Blendon Township police department has described both officers as victims of assault, putting the shooter on administrative leave and keeping the second officer on staff. Body camera footage that police released of the shooting last week has only prompted more calls for the arrest of the officer who shot the gun and local demonstrations in the Columbus suburbs. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is doing an independent investigation into the incident, police say.

Young’s death, along with other recent fatal encounters with law enforcement, has renewed national attention on police killings, and law enforcement’s disproportionate shootings of Black Americans. Mapping Police Violence, a group that collects data on police shootings, found though Black Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the population, they comprised at least 20 percent of the people killed by law enforcement so far in 2023.

Previously, police violence and bias in law enforcement came under greater scrutiny following the Black Lives Matter protests launched in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

Despite calls for — and some attempts at — reform, the number of police killings has remained high, with 2022 becoming the deadliest year in at least a decade, according to a Mapping Police Violence analysis. This year has been slightly less violent than the last, but police have still killed more than 726 people — a rate of almost three people per day.

What we know about Young’s shooting

Last Friday, police released body camera footage from Young’s shooting.

In the video, two officers can be seen approaching Young’s car after getting reports about shoplifting at the Kroger grocery store. One officer confronts her outside her driver’s side window and another addresses her from the hood of the car. The officer at the window says Young is accused of stealing, a claim she denies.

Both then repeatedly say “Get out of the car,” with the one at the hood of the car, yelling, “Get out of the fucking car,” and pointing his gun toward her. At that point, Young begins to slowly drive toward the officer at the hood, and he shoots directly through her windshield. The car keeps rolling but doesn’t appear to be getting steered in a clear direction, ultimately colliding with the side of a nearby building.

Police then break the side window of Young’s car, and it appears she’s fallen over to one side. Following the shooting, Young was taken to the hospital. Neither she nor her unborn daughter survived.

Young’s family has urged “a swift indictment” for the officer in the shooting, calling the police’s actions a “gross misuse of power and authority.” Young’s family lawyer Sean Walton has said that the officer “could’ve clearly just eased out of the way of that slow-moving vehicle but instead chose to shoot Ta’Kiya directly in her chest and kill her.”

The Blendon Township police, meanwhile, have said the officers were victims of assault since Young drove her car in one’s direction and pulled away while the other officer’s arm was in the driver's side window. The findings of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s inquiry will ultimately inform whether the county prosecutor decides to file charges.

Young’s family has described her, a mother of two, as someone who was excited for the next chapter of her life, who had sought to secure new public housing space for her kids and unborn baby. Her grandmother, Nadine Young, has also told the Associated Press that she was a “fun-loving, feisty young lady,” and that she was still grappling with her mother’s recent passing.

Police violence is a pervasive problem

The frequency of police violence has remained high in recent years.

Per the Washington Post tracker of fatal police shootings, the number of these killings has risen in the last few years. In 2020, there were 1,019 fatal police shootings. In 2021, there were 1,048 fatal police shootings. In 2022, there were 1,096 fatal police shootings. So far, 2023 appears to be shaping up to be a slightly less deadly year. While at this point in 2022, there were nearly 700 deadly shootings, there have been 647 fatal police shootings so far.

Because of incomplete policing data, the race of all of the police’s victims isn’t known. But from what data is available, it’s clear police also continue to shoot and use force against Black people at disproportionate rates. The Post’s data shows Black people are roughly twice as likely as white people to be the victim of a fatal police shooting, while Mapping Police Violence, which tracks police killings by any means, found Black people are nearly three times more likely to be killed. Part of this disparity stems from the fact Black people are more likely to be profiled by police for instance, Black Americans are 20 percent more likely to get stopped for traffic stops than white people.

There are a number of factors behind police violence and racial disparities including deep-seated systemic racism that dates back to how “slave patrols” were used to police enslaved people who attempted to escape the South. Additionally, due to a protection known as “qualified immunity,” police face limited legal liability for their actions unless a victim can prove a clear precedent for holding them accountable. That’s meant officers are rarely charged following killings, and that recent civil rights protests have brought limited cultural change to police departments.

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