LIMA, OH (AP) -- 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 on misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and negligent assault. He had faced up to eight months in jail if convicted of both counts.
Chavalia shot and killed Tarika Wilson and injured her year-old son who she was holding while SWAT officers stormed her house in January looking for her boyfriend, a suspected drug dealer.
Prosecutors said Chavalia, walking up a stairway in the house, recklessly fired into a bedroom where Wilson was with her six children. Her son, Sincere Wilson, was hit in the shoulder and hand. One of the boy's fingers was later amputated.
He fired three times at her even though he could not clearly see her or whether she had a weapon, said Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh.
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."
Right. Pointing out that a woman who posed no threat was senselessly murdered is "Monday morning quarterbacking." I can't help but think of the line from Monty Python's Holy Grail, after John Cleese's character has killed dozens of people for no apparent reason: "let's not argue and bicker over who killed who..."
As for what would a world without police officers like Joe Chavalia would be like? I'm not sure -- but at least a 26 year old mother would be alive to see it.