On the evening of January 4, 2008, a SWAT team arrived at the Lima, Ohio, home of Tarika Wilson to arrest her boyfriend on suspicion of drug dealing. Officers kicked in the door, entered the home with guns drawn, went upstairs and opened fire in a bedroom where 26-year-old Wilson and her six children were gathered. Police shot and killed Wilson while she was holding her 14-month-old son. The baby was shot in the arm and shoulder and survived but his finger was amputated.
Neighbors and Lima residents gathered outside the Wilson home to protest the police shooting, which sparked further protests by Lima’s Black community decrying poor race relations and police brutality. Many Black residents shared their experiences of harassment and mistreatment by the police. African Americans comprise 27 percent of Lima’s population, but the town is surrounded by farmland. A conservative political climate prevails and the vast majority of local police are white people from neighboring farming towns. At the time of Tarika Wilson’s death, only two of the 77 officers on the Lima police force were Black.
Joseph Chavalia, the officer who fired the shots that killed Tarika Wilson and injured her baby, later faced misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and negligent assault. An all-white jury acquitted him on all charges.
The presumption of guilt and use of excessive force continues to lead to police killings of unarmed Black people, including Ramarley Graham in Bronx, New York, in February 2012; Jonathan Ferrell in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September 2013; Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, in July 2014; and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.