Tarika Wilson Should Be Alive

This makes me want to scream.

Tarika Wilson, a black woman, was killed 8 months ago in a drug raid. Police entered her home with guns drawn. Sgt. Joseph Chavalia, a white man, shot Wilson, who was unarmed, while she held her baby son in her arms. For. No. Good. Reason. And an all white jury just acquitted him of all charges in her death.

A white police officer was acquitted Monday in the drug-raid shooting death of an unarmed black woman that set off protests about how police treat minorities in a city where one in four residents is black.

The all-white jury found Sgt. Joseph Chavalia not guilty of misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and negligent assault. He had faced up to eight months in jail if convicted of both counts.

Chavalia shot 26-year-old Tarika Wilson and her year-old son she was holding, killing her and hitting him in the shoulder and hand, during a Jan. 4 SWAT raid on her house. One of the child’s fingers had to be amputated.

Officers had been looking for Wilson’s boyfriend, a suspected drug dealer.

[. . .]

Prosecutors said Chavalia recklessly fired into a bedroom where Wilson and her six children were gathered.

He fired three times at her even though he could not clearly see her or whether she had a weapon, prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh said. “He couldn’t tell Tarika had a child in her arms,” he said during closing arguments Monday.

Chavalia had testified that he thought his life was in danger when he fired the shots. He said he saw a shadow coming from behind a partially open bedroom door and heard gunshots that he thought were aimed at him. It turned out the gunfire he heard was coming from downstairs, where officers shot two charging pit bulls.

Isn’t it funny really fucked up how white police officers seem to think that their lives are in danger when they’re not so much more often when it’s a black person that’s posing the not actual threat?  And how white juries eat it right up?

This man killed a woman.  In fact, forensic evidence points to Tarika Wilson being on her knees rather than standing when she was killed, indicating that Chavalia murdered herbut parts of this evidence was barred from jury consideration. He seriously injured and very well could have killed her child.  There were five additional children in that room.  Innocent, unarmed people, during a raid looking for someone who wasn’t there.  Then Chavalia was only charged with two misdemeanors for his stupid, prejudiced, seemingly malicious and certainly deadly actions.  And now an all white jury has ensured that there will be no repercussions.

This is, if you can stomach it, what the defense attorney had to say in Chavalia’s favor:

Defense attorney Bill Kluge told jurors Monday that Chavalia should not be judged on what wasn’t known until after shooting, including the fact that Wilson did not have a gun or pose a threat.

“It’s Monday morning quarterbacking,” he told jurors. “Put yourself in Joe’s shoes that night.”

The jury’s decision, he said in closing statements, will affect officers across Ohio.

“What kind of world would it be if we didn’t have police officers,” Kluge said. “Joe was doing his duty.”

Really, I feel ill.

First of all, it’s a good thing for a guilty verdict to affect officers across the state.  That’s the fucking point — to prevent another senseless tragedy like this from happening again.  And if we are to believe Chavalia’s own version of the events, no, it wasn’t known that Wilson didn’t have  a gun or pose a threat.  Which is why Chavalia shouldn’t have fired his weapon.  If police officers fired their weapons every time they didn’t know if a person in front of them was armed, do you realize how many dead people there would be?  Do you realize how often police are around gunfire and don’t purposely shoot unarmed persons?  Every day.  Right now, as we speak. And if we listen to the experts?  He knew.  Either way, he deserves to live inside a prison cell.

While it seems pretty clear to me that Kluge ought to rot in hell for this defense, let me spell it out nice and carefully: Chavalia was not “doing his duty.”  It is a police officer’s job to “protect and serve.”  To protect you.  To protect me.  To protect Tarika Wilson.  They fail at that job a hell of a lot and fail even more often depending on the population in question, but what is absolutely not up for debate is the fact that it’s not a police officer’s duty to shoot unarmed citizens who have been surprised by invasions of their private residences as they hold infants in their arms.  If that is a police officer’s duty, I would in fact like to envision the world we’d live in without them, because it sounds a hell of a lot safer to me.

Fuck you Chavalia, fuck you Kluge, fuck you jury.  Just fuck you.

Our society failed Tarika Wilson, it failed her son and it failed the rest of her family.  We should be angry and we should be ashamed.

R.I.P. Tarika.  You will be remembered.

0 thoughts on “Tarika Wilson Should Be Alive

  1. Alice

    It upset me that the day after reading about this story (only on blog posts, mind, not in the mainstream media) people were getting upset about this which is really not quite the same…

    Reply
  2. SunlessNick

    Defense attorney Bill Kluge told jurors Monday that Chavalia should not be judged on what wasn’t known until after shooting, including the fact that Wilson did not have a gun or pose a threat.

    Isn’t the point supposed to be that we can trust police officers and their training to discern such threats? That’s certainly the line that would have been taken had he turned out to be right.

    Reply
  3. MzBitca

    I’m having a hard time working this case over in my head. I firmly believe that the officer really did not know he was shooting at a woman with a child. I know police are told that they can retaliate with slightly more force than is being used against them so if someone rushes them with no visible weapons they are authorized to use mace/taser. However, I know this does not happen and many police do shoot with the knowledge that if they do hit the “right” kind of person, their will be no retalitation. Unfortunately an Black mom living with a black drug dealer is exactly the “right” type of situation and person that will be forgiven by a jury. It is the mentality that all minorities are somehow more violent than whites and there is no “reasoning” with them so of course we go in guns ablazing.

    Reply
  4. kelly g.

    Chavalia had testified that he thought his life was in danger when he fired the shots.

    These sort of bullshit “defenses” are collectively starting to sound more and more like a racist version of the so-called “gay panic”. Every time one of these police officers thugs catches a glimpse of brown skin, all of a sudden their lives are in mortal danger. Makes you wonder how they go about their daily routines, what with all the people of color at the grocery store, movie theaters, gym, etc.

    With cops like these, who needs criminals?

    Reply
  5. SunlessNick

    These sort of bullshit “defenses” are collectively starting to sound more and more like a racist version of the so-called “gay panic”.

    That is very insightful.

    Reply
  6. SunlessNick

    Isn’t it funny really fucked up how white police officers seem to think that their lives are in danger when they’re not so much more often when it’s a black person that’s posing the not actual threat?

    And how much more often a man’s “I didn’t mean it” is deemed to excuse him when it’s a woman he’s hurt, or as in this case, killed.

    Reply
  7. jovan byars

    More rogue cops behaving like Myanmar’s military junta. This case illustrates why we need to bring back double jeopardy.

    These cops shouldn’t be patrolling our streets, they should be in jail.

    Reply
  8. SunlessNick

    And predictably, the op eds are springing up saying that she deserved it. Example courtesy of Shakesville:

    shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/08/wow.html#disqus_thread

    Difficult to find the words to do it justice; but yes, if you find it hard to believe you read correctly, the writer does refer to “litters” of black children.

    Reply
  9. SunlessNick

    I notice the piece of shit Shakesville refers to also says this: “the fact remains that the police generally don’t seek to break down the doors of homes of women who’ve had five boyfriends who are all, say, accountants”

    Neglecting to mention the fact that accountants, and other people in high-pay, high-esteem, but high-stress jobs are hardly a mutually exclusive set to drug dealers. But they do tend to be more often is … um … white, that’s it. And yes, I do note that police tend not to break down their doors even when they are drug dealers.

    Reply
  10. Lisa Harney

    How did I miss this?

    And how much I wish my first reaction wasn’t to think back to all the other times I’ve heard of police officers killing unarmed women of color…

    … and getting away with it.

    Kelly, I completely agree. There’s certain fictions that make it acceptable to kill some kinds of people – and the police officer in this instance is using one of them.

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Smite Me! [.net] » Blog Archive » Business as usual (redux).

  12. Pingback: Former Detective Accused of Raping Women Who Sought Police Help : The Curvature

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