North Texas Daily

Q&A with Kevin Tarver, father of Darius Tarver

Q&A with Kevin Tarver, father of Darius Tarver

Q&A with Kevin Tarver, father of Darius Tarver
March 05
10:00 2020

Around 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, Denton police responded to a call about a man breaking lights at The Forum student apartments, where they found UNT criminal justice senior Darius Tarver. Police shot and killed Darius, who allegedly wielded a pan and meat cleaver and stabbed an officer, according to police reports.

Darius’ father Kevin Tarver, a police chaplain, watched bodycam footage of the incident with Denton police and other clergy members on Feb. 6. Kevin has publicly disputed police reports about the incident and called for the release of the footage, claiming Darius did not have a meat cleaver or act violently toward police.

Kevin sat down for an interview with the North Texas Daily on Feb. 26.

You’ve been fighting to publicly release the footage of Darius for weeks now. How were you able to view the video? 

The reason I was able to see the video is because I was part of law enforcement. Otherwise, I would have been like other parents who could not have been able to see that video. I’m a chaplain, but I actually come from a criminal justice background. I went to school for criminal justice as well. But police had promised me transparency from the very beginning.

I got two different stories from a Ranger and [Denton Police] Chief Dixon, so they lost confidence from me in what they do.

Now I just wonder how many of those cover ups, how many of the lives that they’ve affected that they have not given out information. So I’m really startled that they would go to the lengths to not release what the public wants to see, especially when they’re receiving public funding. You have to go to extremes just for them to release what is supposed to be for transparency. I have a federal civil rights attorney, and we’re almost having to go to the point of filing suit.

What did you see? 

I went in and saw that the job they should have done wasn’t done. [Darius] could have been helped. That whole situation did not have to happen if they only followed protocol.

Because he didn’t come at them, they came at him. Within a minute or two minutes, they actually started tasing him because he wouldn’t comply. With a person in a mental state, your first duty is to recognize that, assess the situation, give them time. Everything they’re taught to do, they didn’t do it.  They didn’t give any space. They were right in his face. He was still standing in a well-lit spot in one corner. And I’m like, we were waiting to see what police had put out there happen, and it didn’t.

It was nowhere close to what they said happened. We were waiting to see him come down the stairs running with his meat cleaver and pan, and we see him walk down very slowly with a pan.

Just saying, ‘My heavenly father, my God from above,’ looking up. You could tell he was in his own world.

Before they did anything, they tased him — and just think about this. Think about 5,000 volts of electricity going through your body. If you want to try to hold on to a pan or a meat cleaver, everything is going to come out of your hands because you trying to pull the taser out of your body.

If you really listen to [the police report] you would think he was running down the stairs. He was tased. He went down almost for a minute, and he almost immediately got up, then they tased him again, but it didn’t work. And then he tried to stab an officer.

He wasn’t running down the stairs. He wasn’t tased on the stairs. He had stopped at the bottom of the stairway, and if you see how for the stairs are from the sidewalk, there were only a few feet. So he’s standing there at the bottom of the stairway not doing anything.

He does have a pan in his hand but he’s not being aggressive. No imminent threat, no nothing. All they’re doing is yelling commands. ‘Put the weapons down, put the weapon down.’ And then the officer immediately tased him. He’s not doing anything. Why aren’t you de-escalating this?

He was hopping around, trying to get the taser barbs out, and at the moment he steps forward, that’s when they fire their first shot. They said he was tased and then tased again. But he was tased and then they fired their shot. He went to the ground and he was still doing nothing but saying ‘My heavenly father, I will not fear.’

It’s apparent he had nothing is in his hand. And one of the officers said ‘There’s no knife.’ You can see him laying on the ground, and he’s rolling back and forth in pain and agony. They’re telling him ‘Don’t move, don’t get up.’ This kid is in a mental crisis. 

What do you hope to accomplish with the release of this video? 

I want charges brought against the officer, I want to expose the Denton Police Department because I don’t know how many other times it’s happened.

But people have been telling me that this has not been a one time thing and nobody has brought their voice against them. So, what does it take, when this should be something that’s done not only in the instance of a shooting, but how many other things have been done where there wasn’t camera or anybody able to stand up for the people that you know have experienced difficulties.

In this situation we know there’s a problem in policing with — let’s just put it out there — implicit bias. Police target Black men at a higher rate simply because they are presumed to be higher threat. It’s a national crisis.

Featured Image: Kevin Tarver addresses protesters calling for the release of footage 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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