LIMA — A sorrowful requiem rang out as night faded on 218 E. Third St. Friday evening. Five years later, all was eerily quiet as friends and family huddled to mourn the loss of Tarika Wilson, a death that has caused controversy and a massive community discussion about race relations and the justice system in the city.
“I feel like she did die in vain,” said Ivory Austin, Wilson’s father. “For me, the hurt will never go away. I will always feel that I lost a child.”
On Jan. 4, 2008, a Lima police officer shot and killed a 26-year-old Wilson, and also shot and injured one of her six children, Sincere Wilson, one-year-old at the time, resulting in protest marches and a SWAT team veteran found not guilty and cleared of wrongdoing.
Sgt. Joe Chavalia, who had been with Lima Police Department for 31 years, was the officer who shot and killed Wilson. Race was immediately injected into the situation, with a white officer shooting the biracial girlfriend of a suspected drug dealer. Community anger boiled at meetings with City Council and other organizations.
Anthony Terry, the man police were focused on in that raid, eventually pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Chavalia was charged with, and later acquitted of, two misdemeanors, negligent homicide and negligent assault. Again race entered the conversation, when an all-white jury took three hours to return a not guilty verdict.
But despite the public outcry that followed her death, her family is still waiting for change to come in the Lima Police Department, they said Friday.
“It’s the same thing. The police still interact when they shouldn’t and they take things a little too far,” said Tarika Wilson’s stepsister, Lisa Moore. “It leads to things like her death. It’s not going to change unless something happens with the city. Police they just aren’t doing their jobs. They’ve got to do more.”
Tarika Wilson’s mother, Darla Jennings, said she feels if anything, the police are harsher now.
“They can just pull you over for anything now. I’ve had a couple family members that have been pulled over for no reason. Just because the police thought they were somebody else and they wasn’t,” Jennings said. “They should spend their money getting the real thieves instead of just pulling people over for no reason. It just don’t make no sense.”
Out of a large community focus group session effort, the Citizens Review Board formed in 2010. The group is tasked with investigating and seeking action on complaints against local police agencies in wake of Tarika Wilson’s death. But that may have not been enough. The group has never taken a case.
“I don’t think justice was served,” Austin said. “It hasn’t solved anything. The same things are still going on.”
Lima Police Department declined to comment on Friday.
To remember her on the fifth-year anniversary, friends and family of Tarika Wilson huddled on the porch of the house where the fatal incident happened. What has the aftermath of her death been like for her family?
“Hell. Pure hell,” said Jennings, tearing up. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.”
Family described her as a stay-at-home mother, a loving caretaker, a sweet soul, someone who would do anything for anyone.
Sincere, now 6, garbed in a blue puppy hat and checkered heavy winter coat, clung to his grandmother as the group prayed in remembrance of his mother. Austin said Sincere still has scars on his torso and he is missing a finger as a result of the shooting.
“He remembered everything. I didn’t think he would, but he remembered everything,”Jennings said. “He sees that man’s picture right now and he says, ‘That’s the white man that did it. He killed my mom and shot me.’”
Lima Mayor David Berger said he believes the police are doing the best they can.
“I believe that the Lima Police Department has worked hard to create relationships with law abiding citizens in our community and continues to try to find creative ways to do that,” he said on Friday. ” I think for the long-term, it’s that kind of engagement with the community that will make a difference.”
Moving forward, her family said they hope things will change in Lima.
“Start standing up. Start standing up against the crooked police,” Jennings said. “Out of every bushel, there is a bad apple. Not saying a whole lot of the police department is wrong, but in this situation he was.”
Even though Moore said she couldn’t really say whether she forgives Chavalia or not, she said all the family can do is hope.
“That’s all we can do. We can’t really specify things will ever change,” she said. “It’s within the system. If they really want something to change, they have to do it. These things aren’t going to change by themselves.”
Tarika Wilson vigil
Vigil marks five years since Tarika Wilson's death