Release Unedited Bodycam Video of Darius Tarver Shooting Now
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I, Deb Armintor, an elected At-Large Denton City Council Member, following my 2/19/20 open letter supporting Kevin Tarver's call for transparency in the recent fatal shooting of his son Darius (https://dentonrc.com/opinion/columnists/deb-armintor-city-should-release-bodycam-footage-from-jan-fatal/article_98c3cc75-14e5-5739-bcef-bf83c44debf0.html), join with the undersigned concerned members of the public to request the prompt release of:
- the unedited bodycam video of the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Denton resident, Darius Tarver, by all accounts a model student, son, and friend with no prior record, whose mental health had been unstable since a recent severe car collision landed him in the ICU, where he was released following an abbreviated overnight stay.
- the identity of the City of Denton police officer who killed him at his apartment building on January 21, 2020, several months before Darius was set to graduate from UNT with his degree in Criminal Justice and become a police officer himself, like his father, Kevin Tarver, who is Chaplain to the City of McKinney Police Department.
In the words of civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the Tarver family, both the bodycam video and the officer's identity can and should be publicly released, not only in accordance with the wishes of the family and for the benefit of the community, but also for the integrity of the investigations underway before the case goes to a grand jury:
“We’re still unsure about what happened,” Merritt said. “There are witnesses that have not come forward. Both this video and the identity of the officer should be released because if this officer has been engaged in misconduct before, the community has a right to know and that should be a consideration before the case goes to a grand jury. So there are legitimate investigatory reasons for releasing this video.” (https://www.ntdaily.com/kevin-tarver-darius-father-disputes-denton-pd-account-of-shooting/)
In addition to the criminal investigation underway by the Texas Rangers, there is also an internal investigation being conducted by Denton city police, whose official publicly disseminated narrative paints Darius as an unstoppable meat-cleaver-wielding attacker of police, immune to deescalation and still a violent threat to others after attempted deescalation followed by repeated tasings. The purpose of DPD's internal investigation is to determine if their use of deadly force was justified under the circumstances. If the undisclosed bodycam evidence proves DPD's narrative to be true, Darius Tarver's fatal shooting would appear to be a tragic but justified use of force under nationally accepted police standards.
Significant doubt has been raised, however, by a qualified professional close to the subject: McKinney Police Chaplain Kevin Tarver, who was privately shown the bodycam video by Texas Rangers, and was prepared to accept that his son's shooting was justified if that was what the evidence showed. But he says the video he saw shows no meat cleaver, no attack on police, just an obviously disturbed young man in a mental health crisis, not poised to attack, but praying at a distance for his life, tased and shot repeatedly, while writing in agony from the tasing until the shot that ended his life, never a threat to police or to anyone else. Tarver believes the investigations underway and public opinion are being unduly influenced by the presently circulating DPD narrative depicting his son as a violent attacker and the shooting as justified. He also believes it is in the public's best interest to know the identity of the officer before the external and internal investigations are complete. As a police employee well-versed in federally accepted police standards for best practices in deescalation, implicit bias awareness, and mental health crisis response, Tarver claims in a Facebook post that the following deescalation best practices were clearly called for, but never employed:
"Trained officers are taught to de-esculate which never happened no one talked to him or identified themselves when training teaches you to:
- Be Empathic and Nonjudgmental
- Respect Personal Space
- Use Nonthreatening Nonverbals
- Avoid Overreacting
- Focus on Feelings
- Ignore Challenging Questions
- Set Limits
- Choose Wisely What You Insist Upon
- Allow Silence for Reflection
- Allow Time for Decisions...Didnt happen!
However non of this took place, Darius Tarver within 1 minute to two minutes was attacked by officers with Taser where everything in his hands went to the ground as he jumped & screamed in pain and agony as he stepped forward was immediately shot hands empty and went down , still not aware of what was happening he rolled and cried out to God as 5 officers stand around after this young man tasered and shot rolled and obviously no weapons in hand in pain. Officers do not try to restrain this child, you can even here officer say I don't see a knife. But yet these officers yell don't move , don't get up not one officer tries to secure the objects they consider a threat. As this young man tries to get up and grab his frying pan and turns same officer immediately discharges his weapon couple more times."
In a recent interview, at which I was present, Kevin Tarver describes:
“The first thing they did was start yelling at him to drop the weapons, drop the weapons, and he’s standing in his own world. He’s not charging anybody, he’s not trying to attack anybody, and at that point, you know, within a minute to two minutes, it’s time to do something,” Kevin said. “They said they gave him plenty of time, well in de-escalation it can take 30 minutes to an hour, it can take however long it takes to save a life.” (https://www.ntdaily.com/kevin-tarver-darius-father-disputes-denton-pd-account-of-shooting/ )
As a proud member of the law enforcement community, whose deceased son and grieving nephew, Darius's cousin, belong to UNT's chapter of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives), Kevin Tarver hopes that one day the video he saw will be used to train fellow police officers nationwide on exactly how not to respond to a mental health crisis. He hopes that the negative example of the video will be used to enhance police training in deescalation best practices, implicit bias awareness, and mental health crisis response --and in turn to save lives. As he continues to see his son's name publicly dragged through the mud by strangers who accept the prematurely circulated unstoppable-meat-cleaver-attacker narrative as fact in the absence of any publicly available evidence to the contrary, Tarver does not want his son to have died in vain, after the physical violence done to his body on January 21 and the violence done to his reputation every day since. Like any proud member of any profession, he wants to see best practices upheld, and he wants integrity and accountability when it is not upheld. As a public servant like myself, he wants transparency in the form of the prompt public release of both the unedited body cam footage and of the shooting officer's identity. The undersigned concerned citizens want the same --for the memory of Darius Tarver, for the sake of public trust and public safety, and for the integrity of the investigations underway and the future grand jury trial.
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