LIMA — Two years after a police officer shot and killed a woman during a drug raid, some community responses to the incident are fully under way. Others remain works in progress.
After a white officer shot a biracial woman, the incident exposed deep racial divides in the community. A priority for the African-American community, a citizens complaint board, should be established in some form this year, resulting from the work of the Community Stakeholders Roundtable, formed by Mayor David Berger and Allen County Commissioner Dan Reiff.
A subcommittee of that group heard presentations from other community complaint boards and is crafting a mission statement and structure for Lima’s board. The board could hear complaints regarding any police agency in the county and other facets of the justice system.
Subcommittee member and local NAACP chapter President Jason Upthegrove doesn’t like the direction the group is headed, believing it will be “watered down” from its original concept. Upthegrove wants a narrowly focused board, dealing only with complaints for the Lima Police Department. He says the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has more concerns about blacks’ treatment by police than other law enforcement and because such a board isn’t the place to address larger issues such as jury makeup or sentencing disparity.
Upthegrove also has tough words for people in the African-American community who railed against police immediately after the shooting, but who are now not doing the work to get what they said they wanted.
“A lot was said at forums, public meetings after Tarika (Wilson) was killed, a lot of people marching, protesting. But now that it comes down to sitting at the table and having discussions about what we want, once again in this community people are too busy to participate. So you’ve got an imbalance of individuals making decisions.”
The Lima Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics Team raided Tarika Wilson’s East 3rd Street home Jan. 4, 2008, looking for drugs and Wilson’s boyfriend, Anthony Terry.
Sgt. Joe Chavalia mistakenly shot and killed Wilson and injured then 1-year-old Sincere Wilson, Wilson’s baby boy she was holding. Chavalia heard gunfire, which came from other officers shooting at dogs. Terry, found in the home that night, is in prison on drug convictions.
An Allen County jury acquitted Chavalia of negligent homicide and negligent assault charges in 2008. Chavalia was assigned in 2009 to an administrative position overseeing the planned traffic camera program. When that folded, Chavalia returned to uniform patrol on dayshift as a supervisor, Police Maj. Richard Shade said. He is currently on extended medical leave.
Wilson’s family and the city’s insurance company last week settled a federal lawsuit that Wilson’s mother, Darla Jennings, filed on behalf of her daughter and her six children. The city’s insurance company will pay $2.5 million that will purchase annuities for the children’s needs.
Earlier last year, police, sheriff’s deputies and the FBI conducted a massive drug operation, arresting 15 people after a two-year investigation. As part of the day, officers served an arrest warrant at an East Kibby Street home. Police and the people in the home tell different stories about what happened, but the mix of a SWAT team in a home with a mother and multiple children again angered the African-American community.
Police thought the woman they were after lived there. The woman who was living there knew the other person police wanted and called her, and that woman turned herself in. Police did find a gun and 27 small bags of marijuana in the home.
Police met with Upthegrove to explain their surveillance gathering and SWAT procedures, Shade said.
“I can’t say there is agreement,” Shade said. “But there is awareness, which is what we were trying to accomplish.”
Upthegrove said the information only strengthened his belief that the department needs major changes.
Upthegrove and police also disagree about the effectiveness of two community police forums hosted jointly in 2009 by Lima Police and Allen County Sheriff’s Office.
Discussions after the shooting led to many community wants, but near the top of the list was greater cooperation between LPD and the Sheriff’s Office. With the election of Sheriff Sam Crish, the departments now have an abundance of cooperation, and the joint forums are just one example of that.
The forums gave officers the chance to address a chief public complaint, why police can’t more quickly shut down drug houses operating in neighborhoods, Shade said.
Upthegrove wants to see topics on profiling and traffic stops that turn into vehicle searches, which he believes would draw out more diverse crowds and accomplish more.
Differences remain two years later