COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ta’Kiya Young treated her two little boys like kings, dressing them sharply, letting them have too many sweets, cooking them big gourmet meals of T-bone steak with broccoli, cheese and rice.
The royal life also awaited her unborn daughter.
When Young found out she was pregnant with her third child — a girl — she was thrilled. The 21-year-old Ohio mom and aspiring social worker bought a stack of adorable onesies in anticipation of the baby’s arrival. She scheduled a photo shoot to show off her baby bump. She applied for public housing and looked forward to the day when she and her growing brood would have a place to call their own.
Instead, Young’s grieving family held her funeral on Thursday, exactly two weeks after a police officer in the Columbus suburbs fatally shot her in her car in a supermarket parking lot.
About 100 people showed up at the Church of Christ in Columbus for Young’s service, many of them dressed in various shades of vibrant pink — her favorite color.
Family and friends, tearful and clutching tissues, entered the church’s sanctuary to view Young’s body, dressed in bright fuchsia under a clear casket cover that was illuminated in pink light. The body of her unborn daughter, wearing white, lay in her mother’s embrace. The powerful voices of a gospel soloist and backing choir filled the sanctuary.
Danielle Rivers, Young’s maternal grandmother, who buried Young’s mother just a year ago, said it still hasn’t hit her that she's lost both a daughter and granddaughter. She can’t eat or sleep.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” Rivers, tears streaming down her cheeks, said in an interview with The Associated Press. Young was a “smart girl” who was “beautiful inside and out."
The fatal Aug. 24 encounter between Young and police, captured on bodycam video released last week, was the latest in a troubling series of fatal shootings of Black adults and children by Ohio officers, and followed various episodes of police brutality against Black people across the nation over the past several years. The confrontations have prompted widespread protests and demands for police reform.
Young’s family wants the officer who shot her to be immediately fired and charged in her death and the death of her unborn child. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is leading the investigation. The police union has said that calls to charge the officer before an investigation is complete are premature.
Ahead of Young's funeral, her paternal grandmother, Nadine Young, who helped raise her, recalled Ta’Kiya (tah-KEYE'-ah) as a high-spirited prankster and a popular, “fun-loving, feisty young lady" who nevertheless struggled with the sudden death of her mother last year, and who was just beginning to find her way in life.
Now the family is focusing on Ta’Kiya’s sons, ages 6 and 3. The oldest, Ja’Kobie, talks about his mother. The youngest, Ja’Kenlie, doesn’t quite understand she’s gone.
“We just show them a whole lot of love and let them know they’ve got a little village surrounding them and loving on them,” Nadine Young told the AP.
Young said the video of Ta’Kiya’s violent death was heart-wrenching to watch, the shooting "void of any humanity or decency at all."
In the video, an officer at the driver’s side window tells Ta’Kiya she’s been accused of shoplifting and orders her out of the car, while a second officer stands in front of the car. Young protests, both officers curse at her and yell at her to get out, and Young can be heard asking them, “Are you going to shoot me?”
Seconds later, she turns the steering wheel to the right, the car rolls slowly toward the officer standing in front of it, and the officer fires his gun through the windshield.
Nadine Young said she believes her granddaughter feared for her safety.
“I believe he was a bully," she said at a news conference on Wednesday, referring to the officer who shot Ta'Kiya. “He came at her like a bully, and that scared her with that baby in her stomach.”
Sean Walton, the family’s lawyer, said the officer had no reason to even point his gun at Ta’Kiya, let alone fire it.
The officer, whose name has not been released by authorities, “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,” he said.
Before her death, Ta’Kiya Young had bounced around a bit, staying with her father in Sandusky and working as a ticket taker at Cedar Point amusement park. More recently, she’d been staying with her grandmother in the Columbus area, a few hours from Sandusky, to celebrate the family's summer birthdays and participate in a remembrance of her mother, Dan’neka Hope.
Ta'Kiya's mother's death had “kind of messed with her," Nadine Young said, and she urged her to get counseling. Ta’Kiya and her grandmother — both of them strong-willed — clashed at times. But their bond remained unshakable, and they spoke every day.
Ta’Kiya also struggled with housing insecurity but had not been in much serious trouble in her short life.
In 2021, she was arrested following a traffic stop in Whitehall, Ohio, in which police said she refused to get out of her car when ordered. Court records indicate Ta’Kiya was jailed briefly before pleading guilty to disorderly conduct. But she moved past that incident relatively quickly, according to her grandmother and the family lawyer. Court records also said she had open charges for petty theft in which her address was listed as “homeless.”
Malissa Thomas-St. Clair, a local teacher and founder of Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children, taught Ta’Kiya in a seventh grade math class. She remembers meeting, and later mentoring an adolescent who was navigating adversity early on in her life.
“She was enduring trauma up until death,” Thomas-St. Clair said through tears. “That experience she experienced, in those last moments of her life, was exactly what she had been experiencing her entire life. Trauma. All she was looking for was a roadmap to a way of being present in life.”
Thomas-St. Clair said they bonded over the fact that both became mothers as teenagers.
“She was looking for somebody to fill those voids, to complete what was missing in her heart,” she said. "And what she found was her children, who she loved unconditionally.”
Despite Ta'Kiya's struggles, a bright future seemed on the horizon for her. She intended to go back to school after the birth of the baby this fall. She had her sights set on a house.
“The struggle was going to be over once she got into the house,” Nadine Young said. "Her and the kids having this nice place, knowing it was theirs, and not having to stay with other people. That was the biggest thing in the world for her. She would’ve been set.”
This week, a notification from the public housing authority came in the mail.
She'd been approved.
“That hurt me to my core,” said Nadine Young, “because she was waiting for that letter.”
Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. AP Race and Ethnicity Editor Aaron Morrison in New York contributed to this report. Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.