Black Man Sues Illinois Town, Police After They Mistook His Daughter's Ashes For Drugs
Video shows that officers who handcuffed Dartavius Barnes searched his car and tested ashes as meth.
May 24, 2021 at 9:07 pm
Newly released bodycam footage captures the moment a Black Illinois resident was stopped by police and had his daughter's ashes mistaken for drugs by police.
Dartavius Barnes originally filed his complaint against the City of Springfield and the Springfield Police Department (SPD) in October, The Washington Post reports. In April of last year, Barnes said he was pulled over during a traffic stop for speeding.
In the suit, Barnes claims the officers subsequently placed him in handcuffs and unlawfully searched his vehicle without probable cause or a valid warrant, according to WICS News.
In the video, officers are seen telling Barnes that they found an MDMA-like substance in his vehicle. When asked if he can see what they're referring to, Barnes exclaims they're holding the ashes of his daughter.
"No, no, no, no bro, that's my daughter," Barnes can be heard yelling. "Give me that bro, that's my daughter."
The suit details how the officers then sealed off the urn that held the ashes of Barnes' 2-year-old daughter Ta'Naja, then “desecrated” them on the ground after testing it for drugs. The little girl had died just several months prior due to neglect and starvation. The girl's mother along with her fiancee were charged in the death.
He also says the officers "know" him, suggesting they were familiar with the case.
While being detained, Barnes is repeatedly heard asking, "Can I please have my daughter?"
The officers used a field test to determine the contents inside the small urn. But as was such in this instance, the results were wrong. Faulty tests have even resulted in people being held in jail for several months, VICE reported.
They ultimately returned the ashes to the man's father and say they're only going to "write him up" for marijuana they found in the vehicle.
Further in the complaint, it says that the officers involved acted willfully with intent and malice. The officers have denied what is stated in the claim and deny spilling the ashes, WICS News reported.
They say they should be given qualified immunity according to the SPD Complaint Response.
The girl’s mother, Twanka L. Davis, and her fiancee have since been sentenced to prison for her death, The Washington Post reports. According to the Herald Review, the 2-year-old daughter died of starvation and hypothermia after being punished for "acting up."
A jury trial for Barnes’ case is expected to begin in August 2022, according to The Hill. Clifford Law Offices, the firm that is representing Barnes has not commented on this issue.
The City of Springfield said it would not comment on the matter because the investigation was still pending.