Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Not Getting Any Easier

Last night about 2000 people from the City of Lima worshiped at a triumphant, hopeful Palm Sunday service held in at the Civic Center. On my way out to the car I heard more than one person say that if we worshiped together - people of all backgrounds, denominations, cultures - three or four times a year, the city would improve immensely.

Who knew that feeling of optimism would be dashed not a day later.

The Grand Jury today indicted Officer Joseph Chavalia on two separate counts: negligent homicide (in the death of Tarika Wilson) and negligent assault (in the wounding of her 14 month old son, Sincere). Both counts are misdemeanors. At most Officer Chavalia would spend 8 months in jail and pay a fine. He is currently out on a $5000 bond.

Knowing today would probably be the day the prosecutor would begin to unveil his case, it didn't hit me until this afternoon to go to the Lima News website to see what charges, if any, were going to be levied. It wasn't until late this evening (I had a SPRC meeting tonight, and then stayed after talking with Dr. Eric the Buckeye) that the gravity of this decision hit me.

If no indictment had been handed down, it would have been seen as vindication for the LPD, and the black community would have been incensed. If the indictment had resulted in felony murder charges the black community would have been cautiously optimistic while the LPD battened down the hatches. But in this particular case, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, will be satisfied with this indictment.

The law enforcement community, while realizing that the charges could have been felonies, can't be satisfied knowing that one of their own is being charged with a crime while simply doing his duty. What's more, they know that in many quarters of the city people would be of the opinion that the charges levied didn't come close to actually fulfilling the mandate of justice, so the possibility of facing those frustrated and violent is increased.

The Black Ministerial Alliance is upset because for the past two months they've been asked by the city administration to be patient until the facts would be revealed, and justice would be done. They have asked their congregations to be patient and to trust the process. They have reached out to white pastors and churches in the name of building relationships and unity. But in the end, all they have to show for their patience is two misdemeanors and still no report on what went on inside that house in early January. Here's the link to the video of the BMA's press conference held this afternoon.

The family of Tarika Wilson is beside themselves. While her boyfriend, the target of the drug raid, sits in a county jail, unable to raise the 1 million dollar bond for the seven felony counts he faces for drug trafficking, the officer responsible for Wilson's death was out on the streets after only needing to post $5,000. And not matter what, nothing will bring back to six children their mother.

The family of Officer Chavalia is, I'm sure, also reeling right now. Just think how their worlds have been turned upside down overnight. They go from what I imagine was a pretty quiet life, to now the prospect of prison. I'm sure they worry for Officer Chavalia's safety, and what the coming days might bring.

Law and order proponents are upset because they feel like the only reason Chavalia was charged was to appease members of the community. They don't understand why an officer has be persecuted for simply following orders and doing his duty.

The city administration governs now a divided city. They know more marches, and possible violence, are on tap in the near future. They are aware that the negative press this has brought, and will continue to bring Lima, will make it even more difficult to convince folks that this is a good place to live and do business. And one would have to think that a federal investigation of the way the city runs its police department is a good probability right now.

And the citizenry still wait for details on what happened in that house that evening in early January. Without the facts, which were promised to be released to the community by the end of February, its impossible to know what was the Grand Jury was thinking when it handed this decision down. Maybe this is the most accurate and just indictment they could bring. Maybe it isn't. But still, we don't know because the prosecutor refuses to release the specifics.

Until then, all we can do is pray, asking God to guide and protect the citizens of our community and its public safety personnel. Fortunately, prayer seems to work, so we'll continue to wear out the knees of our pants.

Feel free to join us.

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