The Police Murder of Tarika Wilson


Tarika Wilson
Tarika Wilson

On January 4, a police SWAT squad broke into the home of Tarika Wilson in Lima Ohio. They shot Tarika dead and wounded her 14 month old son Sincere. The vocal outrage among Lima's Black community has revealed a long and bitter history of police racism and brutalization.

Police Shooting of Mother and Infant Exposes a City’s Racial Tension

By CHRISTOPHER MAAG January 30, 2008 New York Times


LIMA, Ohio — The air of Southside is foul-smelling and thick, filled with fumes from an oil refinery and diesel smoke from a train yard, with talk of riot and recrimination, and with angry questions: Why is Tarika Wilson dead? Why did the police shoot her baby?

“This thing just stinks to high heaven, and the police know it,” said Jason Upthegrove, president of the Lima chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “We’re not asking for answers anymore. We’re demanding them.”

Some facts are known. A SWAT team arrived at Ms. Wilson’s rented house in the Southside neighborhood early in the evening of Jan. 4 to arrest her companion, Anthony Terry, on suspicion of drug dealing, said Greg Garlock, Lima’s police chief. Officers bashed in the front door and entered with guns drawn, said neighbors who saw the raid.

Moments later, the police opened fire, killing Ms. Wilson, 26, and wounding her 14-month-old son, Sincere, Chief Garlock said. One officer involved in the raid, Sgt. Joseph Chavalia, a 31-year veteran, has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Beyond these scant certainties, there is mostly rumor and rage. The police refuse to give any account of the raid, pending an investigation by the Ohio attorney general.


Ivory Austin (center), Tarika's brother, in the march to protest this police murder.

Black people in Lima, from the poorest citizens to religious and business leaders, complain that rogue police officers regularly stop them without cause, point guns in their faces, curse them and physically abuse them. They say the shooting of Ms. Wilson is only the latest example of a long-running pattern of a few white police officers treating African-Americans as people to be feared.


“There is an evil in this town,” said C. M. Manley, 68, pastor of New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church. “The police harass me. They harass my family. But they know that if something happens to me, people will burn down this town.”

Internal investigations have uncovered no evidence of police misconduct, Chief Garlock said. Still, local officials recognize that the perception of systemic racism has opened a wide chasm.

“The situation is very tense,” Mayor David J. Berger said. “Serious threats have been made. People are starting to carry weapons to protect themselves.”

Surrounded by farm country known for its German Catholic roots and conservative politics, Lima is the only city in the immediate area with a significant African-American population. Black families, including Mr. Manley’s, came to Lima in the 1940s and ’50s for jobs at what is now the Husky Energy Lima Refinery and other factories along the city’s southern border. Blacks make up 27 percent of the city’s 38,000 people, Mr. Berger said.

Many blacks still live downwind from the refinery. Many whites on the police force commute from nearby farm towns, where a black face is about as common as a twisty road. Of Lima’s 77 police officers, two are African-American.

“If I have any frustration when I retire, it’ll be that I wasn’t able to bring more racial balance to the police force,” said Chief Garlock, who joined the force in 1971 and has been chief for 11 years.

Tarika Wilson had six children, ages 8 to 1. They were fathered by five men, all of whom dealt drugs, said Darla Jennings, Ms. Wilson’s mother. But Ms. Wilson never took drugs nor allowed them to be sold from her house, said Tania Wilson, her sister.

“She took great care of those kids, without much help from the fathers, and the community respected her for that,” said Ms. Wilson’s uncle, John Austin.

Tarika Wilson’s companion, Mr. Terry, was the subject of a long-term drug investigation, Chief Garlock said, but Ms. Wilson was never a suspect.

During the raid, Ms. Wilson’s youngest son, Sincere, was shot in the left shoulder and hand. Three weeks after the shooting, he remains in fair condition, said a spokeswoman at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

Within minutes of the shooting, at around 8 p.m., 50 people gathered outside Ms. Wilson’s home and shouted obscenities at the police, neighbors said. The next day, 300 people gathered at the house and marched two miles to City Hall.

Many protesters believe they saw snipers atop police headquarters. The men on the roof were actually photographers, Chief Garlock said.

Sign on the door the police shattered as they rushed in and shot Tarika Wilson

“The police can say whatever they want,” Tania Wilson said. “Even before they shot my sister, I didn’t trust them.”


Smaller marches have continued every week since the shooting. The N.A.A.C.P. will hold a public meeting on Saturday to air complaints about police brutality. The group will soon request that the Department of Justice investigate the police department and the Allen County prosecutor’s office, Mr. Upthegrove said.

Junior Cook was a neighbor of Tarika Wilson. He says that he watched from his front porch as the SWAT team raced across his front yard, and that seconds later he watched a police officer run from Ms. Wilson’s house carrying a bleeding baby in a blanket.

“The cops in Lima, they is racist like no tomorrow,” said Mr. Cook, 56. “Why else would you shoot a mother with a baby in her arms?”

People in this conversation

  • Guest - black mother

    Why is it important how many children she had with who and by who? What is important is she did not sell drugs. She was a single mother. She took care of her children. Racism exists. Had it been a white family living in the suburbs, there would be no one missing a life and no children wounded. It was stereotypes all over the place with this case. It does not matter one iota about her having children with 5 men. She is dead. I am appalled that that line is even in this story! She is dead. Gone. Forever. Her children will not know their mother. And all becasue of the actions of the lima police, blacks are once again reminded that we are hated because of our skin and that racism and modern slavery still exists because of ignorance. This affected our nation, not just Tarika's children and family. Now we have to figure out how we can continue to exist in a nation who treats us like this yet acts like when we experience racial injustice we all are just playing the race card! LIve one day as a black person, just one.

  • Guest - Brittany

    I feel this way about the whole situation i am a white woman and my mother was friends with tarikas family. People in lima in general are racist we have black people that are racist against white people there are latin people who are racist against white and black people. People all around the world are racist and it makes me sick. I have balck friends i dont judge someone people of their skin color. It doesnt make a difference to me. Tarikas death sickens me becasue there was no need to the police to run up in her house and start shootin knowing she had children. The SWAT team did not have to be called i have seen a drug raid before here in lima and never once had i seen a swat team arive for just one person none of this makes sense to me and I agree with the woman who made the comment to live your life a black person for one day and see how bad you get treated. I have personally seen black people get treated badly. and its riduclous. and its horrible how a police officer can shoot a child and kill the motehr and get PAID leave.

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