LIMA, Ohio - The Rev. Jesse Jackson came to town on a mission of change and unity, but he made it clear he believed the police officer who fatally shot a biracial Lima woman Jan. 4 should be prosecuted for what he said was clearly excessive force.
"There must be deterrents not just for the man who pulled the trigger but for those who planned the raid on her house," Mr. Jackson said following a meeting with community leaders at James A. Rhodes State College.
Tarika Wilson, 26, was shot twice, and her 1-year-old son was wounded when the Lima Police Department's SWAT team raided her Third Street home, using a "no-knock" search warrant.
Her boyfriend, Anthony Terry, was arrested on drug charges during the raid, but no explanation has been made public for what prompted Sgt. Joseph Chavalia to fire his gun.
Mr. Jackson said there could be no justification for shooting an unarmed woman holding a child.
"If you know a suspect is in a house or if you suspect a suspect is in a house, you surround the house, be patient, call him out, smoke him out," he said. "In this case, this was a botched plan, a botched raid. This was unnecessary force, excessive, and illegal."
Lima Mayor David Berger, who had lunch with Mr. Jackson and then took part in a roundtable discussion with the civil rights leader and several city, county, and community leaders, said he welcomed Mr. Jackson to Lima and believed he had a valuable perspective and experience to offer. But Mr Berger said he was dismayed by Mr. Jackson's comments about the shooting.
"I do take serious issue with his assertion and call for indictment," Mr. Berger said. "It's inappropriate and unjustified. He doesn't have all the facts to make that kind of judgment."
The Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation is examining the case for possible criminal wrongdoing, while the FBI is conducting its own probe for possible civil-rights violations.
Neither investigation is complete more than a month after Wilson's death.
"I think everyone is frustrated that there hasn't been a report," Mr. Berger said. "I have no basis of which to judge if this is a long time or a short time."
He said the lack of answers results in assertions like the one Mr. Jackson made and causes rumors to continue to circulate about what happened that night.
In a 90-minute speech last night, Mr. Jackson said Wilson's slaying should bring the community together to fight poverty and economic injustice.
"Whether white, black, or brown, hunger hurts," Mr. Jackson said.
Still, he had strong words about her death.
"Her innocent blood boils up on a cold snowy night. ... We will not rest until those who killed her face justice."
As the crowd stood and applauded, he said, "That is a reasonable expectation."
He compared her case to that of Rodney King, who won $3.8 million in damages from the city of Los Angeles after being beaten by city police in April, 1992; the Jena Six, black teenagers charged in Louisiana, and Amadou Diallo, the West African immigrant fatally shot by white New York City police officers in February, 1999.
He also called for more black police officers, sheriff's deputies, and other public employees.
"It's time for a change," he said.
He spoke to a large crowd at Philippian Missionary Baptist Church in Lima. The church was filled to capacity, with people standing along the walls and an overflow of several hundred people watching on closed circuit television in the school's attached gymnasium.
"I really don't have words for it. He was awesome. Everything that he said, I agree with it," said Betty Healey, 66 of Lima. "It's time for a change. Bring the change on."
Mr. Jackson also called on city and county leaders to work at making its employment rolls match its racial makeup, not only in government offices but in schools and all professions.
"All that's required to have peace among black and whites is to have an even playing field, to have a commitment to fairness," Mr. Jackson said.
He said the city could begin with something "as basic as a residency requirement," which ensures those employed by the city live in the city and pay taxes in the city.
Lima also needs an economic stimulus, he said, to counteract crime.
"Jobs out. Investment out. Drugs and guns in," he said. "Taxes up. Services down. First-class jails and second-class schools."
Still, Mr. Jackson said, the issue is not all about race. The majority of poor in this country are white, young, and female, he said.
"This act should not divide us black and white. It should unite us wrong and right," Mr. Jackson said.
Council President John Nixon pledged to present City Council with a letter last night asking the Civil Service Commission and the human resources department to look at alternatives to the way the city does its hiring.
The mayor said the civil service process is "very much" a hindrance to attracting minority job candidates. "We want to see what other cities have done. ... We want to understand what our options are," Mr. Berger said.
Allen County Sheriff Dan Beck said it's "absolutely, extremely difficult" to attract minority candidates for jobs in the sheriff's office. Still, he said, he was committed to setting goals and establishing a rough timeline for meeting them.
"This is only a starting point," he said after the meeting with Mr. Jackson. "There has to be a tremendous amount of discussion."
Jason Upthegrove, president of the Lima chapter of the NAACP, said his organization recently met with the Allied Labor Union to talk about minority apprenticeship programs. He said he is interested in solutions that will have results - especially in the area of jobs.
"Economics is a big issue here," Mr. Upthegrove said. "That's why people make the decision to sell drugs."
Earlier in the day at Lima Senior High School, Mr. Jackson met with the 1,300-student body in the gymnasium, where he made no mention of the Jan. 4 shooting but talked with them about the importance of getting an education, staying away from drugs, and getting along with their neighbors.
"If we don't communicate with each other, then we become afraid of each other and then we fight each other," he said.
He told them they had the right to vote and, with that, the power to change the world, to elect their president, to reduce tuition, and to increase teachers' salaries. When he asked how many students were 17 or older but not registered to vote, more than a hundred stood up. Mr. Jackson called them down to the stage, where he signed them up on the spot.
Some students said they were flattered and encouraged by Mr. Jackson's visit.
"I think it's going to bring our community back together a little bit," said Ciara Cannon, vice president of student council.
Like others, she said she does not believe there are racial tensions at Lima Senior. "Everybody gets along real well," she said.
"We're all friends here," added Terran Washington, a senior at the school. "There's no race wars or anything like that."
Mr. Jackson told students pointedly that it made no sense "to have a baby you can't raise."
In one of the many statements he had students repeat after him, the students chanted, "I must not engage in short-term pleasure for long-term pain."
He told them to stay in school. "When you drop out, it's a bottomless pit. You have no choice," Mr. Jackson said. "One thing worse than not having opportunity is to have it and not seize it."
Blade Staff Writer Kate Giammarise contributed to this report.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-353-5972.