Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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Lima Police Officer Won't Have to Re-Enact Fatal Shooting of Tarika Wilson
Attentive readers probably remember late Lima, Ohio resident Tarika Wilson, the unarmed, bi-racial mother of six who was fatally shot by police officers during a raid-gone-wrong in early January of 2008. The raid - purportedly aimed at her significant other, alleged drug dealer Anthony Terry - also resulted in serious injury to Wilson's then-14-month-old son, Sincere, and vehemenent (as well as thoroughly justified) protests from Lima's African American community; as if foreshadowing the large role dogs would come to play in this year's discussion of SWAT raids, "Chavalia mistakenly shot Wilson when he heard gunfire," which actually "came from other officers shooting at dogs" in Wilson's home, as a new story posted at LimaOhio.com on August 5, 2009 reports ("Judge Rules Against Re-Enactment of Fatal Police Shooting").
If this story is unfamiliar to you, the New York Times provided a compelling overview about three weeks after the botched raid, and the Drug War Chronicle covered the story multiple times for multiple reasons since Wilson's murder in early 2008, even launching in 2009 a SWAT reform campaign inspired by her death.
Although the initial investigation into the fatal shooting found the officer, Sgt. Joe Chavalia, guilty of no wrongdoing in the raid (he was "acquitted of negligent homicide and negligent assault [charges] at a trial last year"), "the family of Tarika Wilson [sought] to have [...] Chavalia re-enact the events of the Jan. 4, 2008, raid, including the shooting of Wilson and her 1-year-old son," for use in "the wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit they filed last year," according to the August 5 article. Unfortunately, the family has been denied the chance to do so following a ruling from Judge David Katz of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, which stated that "it would be nearly impossible to perform a valid re-enactment and it even could be misleading because it would take place at a different time of day under different circumstances." Instead, Katz suggested the Wilson family "use statements Chavalia made during his criminal trial, which included a full account of his actions that night." However, while the videotape might be useful, the Wilson's probably don't need it. They've got not only Chavalia's testimony but have also "inspected [Tarika's former] home at 218 E. Third St. and taken various measurements as well as conducted tests at the scene." In their suit - which has yet to be scheduled - the Wilson's also estimate their legal costs, which "reach $1.09 million, [half of which] was associated with collecting evidence."
Apparently, the Wilson family - either from their experiences following Tarika's death or their prior encounters with law enforcement - is well aware of (particularly racially marginalized) citizens' virtual inability to hold police accountable for their actions, as many other United States residents have learned over the past several decades. Rather, the family appears to have decided that the best way to right a wrong is to do so for themselves. Please join CSDP in wishing the Wilson family the best of luck in their endeavors.