Posted Aug. 7, 2008 – Two days after an all-White jury in Ohio acquitted a policeman who shot and killed an unarmed Black woman and wounded her infant son in front of her five other children, U.S. Justice Department officials say they might bring civil rights charges against the officer.
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The shooting, which took place in early January, drew national attention, as community activists and civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, spoke out about the racial implications in the case.
Lima Police Sgt. Joseph Chavalia, who fired the shot, is White; the victims, Tarika Wilson and her 13-month-old son, Sincere Wilson, are Black. Tarika Wilson was holding Sincere when the officer stormed the home in a drug raid. Her five other children were hiding with her and Sincere in an upstairs bedroom when Chavalia pulled the trigger. In addition to killing Tarika, the bullet pierced the infant’s shoulder and hand, requiring him to have a finger amputated.
On Monday, the Allen County Common Pleas Court jury found that he was not guilty of misdemeanor negligent homicide and negligent assault charges.
Lima officials had requested that the federal government launch its own investigation shortly after the shooting occurred. The FBI forwarded its findings to the U.S. Justice Department. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department as well as the U.S. Attorney General’s Office have monitored the way Ohio law enforcement officials have handled the case from the outset, according to Jamie Pais, a spokesman for the Justice Department.
"Following the review of all the evidence, [we’ll] take appropriate action if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes," she said.