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A Lima, Ohio, police sergeant who shot and killed a woman holding her young child during a drug raid is scheduled to return to work Monday, but he won't be on the SWAT team or working the streets.
Sgt. Joseph Chavalia, 52, who has been on paid leave since the Jan. 4 shooting, passed a fitness for duty examination and will be assigned to two jobs inside the department, Lima police Chief Greg Garlock said yesterday.
"Sgt. Chavalia will be assigned to two tasks that are in need of development which can best utilize his organizational skills and ideas - the red-light camera project and organizational issues surrounding the department's property room," the chief said in a statement.
Chief Garlock said an exam showed the 30-year veteran was capable of returning to the street, but the chief and others decided that wouldn't be the best place for him.
"That was an administrative staff decision taking into light all the considerations of both Joe's well-being, the street officers', and the community because obviously throughout this process there have been threats to his and others' lives," Major Richard Shade said.
In August, Sergeant Chavalia was found innocent of misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and negligent assault for the shootings of Tarika Wilson, 26, and her 1-year-old son, Sincere, during a nighttime raid at Wilson's home.
The officer testified at his jury trial that he had seen movement down a dark hallway as he climbed the stairs. He said he saw a shadowy figure ducking in and out of a doorway and fired his fully automatic rifle when he heard gunfire that coincided with the person's movements.
Sergeant Chavalia later learned Wilson did not have a gun, that her five other children were inside the bedroom, and that the gunshots had come from the kitchen downstairs where police had shot two pitbull dogs.
The shooting of the biracial woman by Sergeant Chavalia, who is white, raised concerns and sparked accusations, particularly among African-Americans, about how the mostly white Lima police force treats members of the black community.
Last month, an internal investigation conducted by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office concluded that Sergeant Chavalia violated no departmental rules during the raid, paving the way for his return to duty.
Major Shade said Sergeant Chavalia, who is eligible for retirement, will oversee implementation of a red-light camera project in Lima in which motorists who are photographed running red lights are cited for civil infractions and fined. He also will oversee the property room and work on getting evidence that's no longer needed moved out of police storage.
"Obviously it's not his druthers, but he was receptive and I have no doubt he will put his best foot forward," Major Shade said.
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