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Denton police chief discusses Tarver bodycam footage at community forum

Denton police chief discusses Tarver bodycam footage at community forum

Denton police chief discusses Tarver bodycam footage at community forum
March 06
13:22 2020

Just hours after releasing the video of Denton police shooting and killing a former UNT student, Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon offered community members a chance to ask questions about the situation in a forum on Thursday night at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.

Audience members were allowed to voice their concerns about the killing of Darius Tarver to Dixon in a question-and-answer forum for around an hour and a half. Frustrations ran high throughout the meeting as people discussed police transparency and particular details of the police footage and narrative.

The footage showed Denton Police arriving at The Forum apartments, approaching Darius, who is holding both a frying pan and meat cleaver in one hand. Officers tased Darius twice before he was ultimately shot and killed, and one officer was apparently struck by Darius with the meat cleaver during the altercation.

Dixon began the forum with a short address and said both people supporting and critical of law enforcement have created an unhealthy dialogue surrounding Darius Tarver.

Darius’ father Kevin publicly protested for the release of the footage in front of the Denton City Council, online and in public demonstrations before the press conference and forum. His account of the footage, which he viewed on Feb. 6, differed from police reports that Darius was wielding a meat cleaver.

“Far too many times we wait until a critical incident happens and then we want to point fingers at each other and we want to search for blame,” Dixon said. “But that’s not productive.”

Several audience members questioned Dixon on his choice to narrate the footage during its initial release at a press conference, citing concerns that the narration is an example of biased messaging from police.

Dixon was quick to dismiss claims of bias and said his comments were only to provide context for the officers’ conduct.

“I was asked to walk the public and the media through it because people would not fully understand it,” Dixon said.

A group of UNT students in the audience told Dixon they could not see Darius stab an officer in the footage and asked if the officer in question was actually hurt. Dixon said although the body cameras may not show everything clearly, an officer was hospitalized and mentioned his injuries in the video.

Dixon reminded the audience that the shooting of Darius Tarver is still under investigation by the District Attorney’s office and the Texas Rangers, so some important facts about the situation will remain withheld from the public.

“I am taking the steps to [release the footage] against the advice of people investigating it, against the advice of, potentially, the people who could be prosecuting it,” Dixon said. “ … The Rangers asked seven times for us not to do what we did today.”

A man questioned Dixon on why councilperson Deb Armintor was denied access to view the footage after she made public requests to do so. Dixon said he prohibited Armintor from accessing the footage, but did not respond to concerns that doing so may have been a breach of ethics or against the law.

Armintor, who has offered support to Kevin’s efforts to get the footage released, attended the forum and offered Dixon a potential apology for any inflammatory comments she may have made while advocating for the Tarver family.

At the press conference, Dixon and Denton Mayor Chris Briggs mentioned that rhetoric from local leaders and citizens risked the safety of Denton officers.

“Has there been anything that I’ve said or written personally toward you, or toward police?” Armintor said. “Because if I have, I’d like to see the proof and I’ll apologize for it.”

Dixon said none of Armintor’s comments directly contributed to hateful speech against police and that any disagreements between the two were strictly personal.

Marketing junior Brooke Roberson, a member of the UNT Black Student Union executive board, said she left the forum with more questions than answers.

“Chief Dixon was dancing around his words,” Roberson said. “I feel like he also tried to create the narrative that he did what he needed to do, like ‘Here you go, since everybody’s been asking for it’ to get people to shut up about the situation … At the end of the day, what happened was not right and I also don’t feel like he has much empathy toward the situation.”

Kevin Tarver did appear at the forum but did not make any public comments.

Featured Image: An audience member speaks to Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon during a community forum at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, March 5, 2020. Image by Carter Mize

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Carter Mize

Carter Mize

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1 Comment

  1. Jim
    Jim March 12, 20:21

    Ah, “UNT professors aim to connect minorities with mental health services.” Look, comrades, minority students don’t need mental health services. Racist Klansman need public punishment! Guess what? Ye who divide humans by race are ye who suffer.
    How is it that professors make that decision? Hey UNT professors, it appears you need mental health services. First, minorities are us. We are one body, attempting to survive within your discriminatory practices. Why?
    Perhaps ‘mental health services’ could make you see the reality that ‘minorities’ are us.
    We are all minorities. By such comments, you appear to be the super-white majority of right thinking bigots. Guess what? You are not safe and you are marked.
    I’ll end on a good note: Realize the community is one body, race is irrelevant. We are one people!

    Reply to this comment

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