Father of UNT Student Killed by Police Seeks Justice as Council Approves Use-of-Force Committee

The Denton City Council voted 5-to-2 Tuesday to create a committee to review use-of-force policies

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George Floyd’s death is putting a renewed focus on police departments' deadly use of force.

The Denton City Council voted 5-to-2 Tuesday to create a committee to review use-of-force policies.

It comes five months after UNT student Darius Tarver was shot and killed by an officer in Denton and amid nightly protests in the Denton Square following Floyd’s death.

“People are realizing America has a problem. Denton has a problem,” Kevin Tarver, Darius’ father, said.

Darius died in January after police were called to his apartment building in January.

In March, Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon released body camera video from four officers who responded to 911 calls about a man smashing exterior lights with a frying pan.

Tarver said body camera video shows his son was having a mental crisis which resulted from a near-fatal car crash he was in a week prior. Tarver said Darius’ head was severely injured, but he was released a day after being admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit.

A Denton police officer fatally shot a man in January who police say resisted a stun gun and continued to advance on police while refusing to drop a frying pan and a cleaver he was carrying.

“Everything that they tell you not to do, those officers done,” Tarver said.

Police said Darius repeatedly refused officers commands.

During the video, he's tased twice and shot at several times after police said he slashed an officer and charged them.

“I'll never see him married. I’ll never see grandchildren. I’ll never see him succeed to be the very destined person that he was,” Tarver said.

Tarver said what happened to his son is another example of excessive use-of-force by police.

“My son wasn't being an imminent threat. His hands were down,” Tarver said.

Nationwide, as anger leads to action over Floyd’s death, Tarver said police need more implicit bias, deescalation and mental health training, and, more transparency, too.

“If we're going to talk about change, we need to talk about changing the whole system,” Tarver said.

As a pastor, and chaplain for the McKinney Police Department, he said he’s skeptical but prayed something good comes from Denton’s new ad-hoc use-of-force review committee.

He said Darius wanted a career in law enforcement. Now, Tarver vows to carry out the change he said Darius wanted to make.

“I will not stand back and let his life be taken in vain,” Tarver said.

The Denton Police Department said it could not comment on Tarver's case, but the chief defended the officer's conduct earlier this year.

No charges have been filed in connection with Darius Tarver’s death.

The Denton County District Attorney's Office said it planned to present the case to a grand jury, but said because of the coronavirus shutdown, that won't happen for a while.

As of Tuesday evening, about 150,000 people have signed a petition calling for criminal charges to be filed against the officers involved.

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