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Protestors rally for Darius Tarver footage in front of Denton Police Department

Protestors rally for Darius Tarver footage in front of Denton Police Department

Protestors rally for Darius Tarver footage in front of Denton Police Department
February 29
19:09 2020

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Denton Police Department Saturday afternoon, calling for the release of bodycam footage showing Denton police shooting and killing former UNT student Darius Tarver in January.

Darius’ father, Kevin, a minister and law enforcement chaplain, organized the protest to demand transparency from the department about the incident. Kevin contested police reports about the shooting, which claimed Darius wielded a frying pan and a meat cleaver and acted erratically, after viewing the footage himself on Feb. 6.

“We’re standing for the rights of [Darius] today so we can get justice, because we know the fabrication that was told was not the truth,” Kevin said. “We are standing for the truth. If they have nothing to hide, prove it. Release the video.”

The Texas Rangers concluded their investigation of the incident last week, and soon a Denton County grand jury will review the case in a closed session, according to the Denton County District Attorney’s office. In a memorandum released a day before the protest, Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon said he will release the footage after the grand jury process concludes.

After an opening prayer by Kevin, protesters spread out and occupied both sides of Hickory Street holding signs and chanting along with speakers using a microphone set up across from the police station.

Kevin and McKinney city councilperson La’Shadion Shemwell delivered speeches on police transparency and brutality. Shemwell read a proclamation he introduced in McKinney, Darius’ hometown, called the “Black State of Emergency,” which outlines solutions for police malpractice.

Denton city councilperson Deb Armintor also appeared at the protest and delivered a speech requesting transparency from police, regardless of what narrative the bodycam footage might display.

Earlier this month, Armintor took to Facebook with an open letter in support of Kevin Tarver after he came forward with disagreements about the police narrative.

“Releasing the video would further good law enforcement because right now there’s a narrative that has been circulating that says one thing, and then the word from the father that has a very different narrative,” Armintor said. “The public just wants to see the truth and will accept the truth — the unedited, unvarnished truth.”

Armintor did not share whether or not she believes Kevin’s account of the bodycam footage, but said Kevin has genuine intentions for his protests.

“I will have no reason to disbelieve [Kevin] until I see the video,” Armintor said. “But it shouldn’t be up to my gut instincts. I just want the public to know … I want transparency even if the footage comes out and shows something completely different.”

Local pastor Troy Jackson watched the video with Kevin in a meeting with police on Feb. 6. Jackson confirmed Kevin’s account of the video and said Darius never acted violently or threatened police with a knife, but instead held keys in his hands.

“We saw a totally opposite narrative than what was conveyed in the media,” Jackson said. “They mentioned a meat cleaver, we didn’t see a meat cleaver. They talked about aggression, we didn’t see aggression … They talked about trying to de-escalate the situation, we didn’t see any de-escalation. What we did see, unfortunately, was the aggression of the officers.”

Multiple accounts of the lead-up to Darius’ death mention a car wreck that sent him to the hospital, where doctors sedated him and released him soon after.

Hours after the car wreck and after spending time with his mother at home and in church, tenants at The Forum apartments, where Darius was killed, contacted police on the morning of Jan. 21 with concerns about a man shattering light fixtures.

Officers responded to the incident at around 3 a.m., when Darius was tased and later shot, according to an official police statement.

Darius’ mother Froncella Reece said her son was “honorable, respectful, kind [and] spiritual.” Reece was joined by Darius’ brother, Kevin Tarver Jr., and two of Darius’ nephews.

“The last time he came home, [Darius] was like ‘Mom, … I’m not planning on just being a police officer,” Reese said. “I’m planning on taking it further out into the community and getting close to people — getting to know people. He had this drive to go out and help communities. He even was trying to tell me ‘A lot of people don’t understand, it’s not just about going to work, it’s about volunteering.’”

Reese said she believes Kevin’s testimony about the footage and said Darius displayed somewhat odd behavior after his car accident that may have contributed to the events of the shooting.

“If [Denton police] don’t have anything to hide, if they aren’t ashamed, why don’t you just release the footage?” Reece said. “That’s the only way we’re gonna get answers.”

Kevin said he intends to appear before the Denton city council to demand the release of footage at their meeting next Tuesday. Joining him will be Lee Merritt, the attorney for Botham Jean, a Dallas man killed in his home by an off-duty police officer who mistakenly believed she was at her own apartment.

Featured Image: Kevin Tarver addresses protesters as they arrive at the Denton Police Department on Feb. 29, 2020. Image by Carter Mize

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Carter Mize

Carter Mize

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