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White officer charged in death of black woman

/ Source: The Associated Press

A white police officer accused of fatally shooting a black woman as she held her 1-year-old son during a drug raid was charged with two misdemeanors Monday, outraging activists and relatives of the woman who said he should face tougher penalties.

Sgt. Joseph Chavalia was charged with negligent homicide in the death of Tarika Wilson, 26, who was killed in a January SWAT raid at her house targeting her boyfriend. He was charged with negligent assault in the wounding of her son Sincere Wilson, whose finger had to be amputated.

Chavalia pleaded not guilty Monday to both counts. If convicted of both he would face a maximum of eight months in jail.

Chavalia was released on a $50,000 bond. His attorney, Bill Kluge, declined to comment after the hearing.

The shooting touched off protests and discussions about race relations. Wilson's family said she was an unarmed, innocent bystander, and her brother and the Lima office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said Monday that the charges should have been more serious.

"Any time a man shoots through a baby and kills an unarmed woman, and is charged with two misdemeanors, I think it would be an understatement to say that that's unacceptable," said Jason Upthegrove, Lima NAACP president. He said the group will ask the FBI and Justice Department to determine whether the case was handled fairly.

"No one's above the law, even if he serves it," said Ivory Austin II, brother of Tarika Wilson. "Don't separate the police from the people. We are all equal in the society. Treat the police like you would treat the common man."

After the arraignment, police Chief Greg Garlock said Chavalia remains suspended with pay and there is continued sadness over Wilson's death.

"It's a sad day for us that one of our officers was indicted," Garlock said.

Little is known about what happened during the raid. Police said Wilson's 31-year-old boyfriend, who was arrested, was the target of a drug investigation. Garlock said marijuana and crack were found.

Many citizens and civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, have demanded that Chavalia and Lima police officials who planned the raid be held accountable. About one in four residents of this northwest Ohio city is black.