Body Cam Footage Breakdown of Jan 2020 Darius Tarver Shooting Challenges Official Narrative.
On January 6th, most Americans and a majority of the world watched in awe as a crowd of thousands of predominately white, far-right extremists invaded the grounds of our nation’s capitol.
We watched as police officers outnumbered hundreds-to-one were pummeled to the ground, sprayed with chemical irritants brought by insurrectionists, as they were beaten with metal pipes, even flag poles, rushed with barricade gates, and attacked with anything lying around that could be used as a weapon.
All of this as American flags, many of which were “Back the Blue” or “Blue Lives Matter” variations waved in the air among the sea of rioters that left dozens of officers seriously injured, and at least one dead on the scene. As this mass of predominately white domestic terrorists posed immediate and imminent threats to the Capitol Police working desperately to secure the building’s perimeter, the whole world witnessed how these attackers faced little to no direct violence from police in return.
Everyone watched how as the riot was contained, the sea of white invaders was cleared with what can only be described as patient police assistance and yet, every day new footage is released which reveals new layers of the brutality imposed by rioters. Each day brings new images and clips of Officers taking selfies with insurrectionists, assisting elderly infiltrators down the capitol steps, hoarding the crowd off the grounds while being sure to take care with their bodies, to prioritize the safety of the Americans they took an oath to serve. Therefore, we know that such police response is not only possible, but that it should be expected as the standard even in the most chaotic of circumstances.
So as I watched our national catastrophe unfold on January 6, 2021, I was struck with an immense rage as the events of January 21, 2020 in Denton, Texas were evoked to the forefront of my memory, playing in unison as a backdrop to the entire shitshow on my screen.
By the evening’s end, all I could think about was Darius Tarver, a young black UNT student who in the early morning hours following Martin Luther King Day last year was brutally assassinated by the Denton Police Department as he suffered a mental health crisis induced by a critical head injury. Shot once, tased twice, slow to stand, and barely able to walk, the only possible threat Darius posed to police was an aluminum frying pan held in a lowered hand.
The truth is that Darius Tarver was executed like an animal by Denton Police Officer Douglas Downing who never once prioritized Darius’ safety or the preservation of Darius’ life, and the utter ease of DPD’s dismissal of Darius’ humanity compared to the blatant and world-wide display of white privilege in the midst of the capitol attack will forever cling to my spirit as a stark reminder of the inherent and systemic nature of our country’s white supremacist culture, which is sustained by what can only be described as an untrustworthy police state.
Yes, it was a year ago when Darius was brutalized and murdered on the sidewalk steps in the front of his apartment, and yet, this article marks the first publication in which his murderer is identified by name.
Why? Because Denton City Officials, largely led by former Mayor Chris Watts, and current head of Police Frank Dixon immediately conspired to facilitate a mass disinformation campaign in order to defame Darius’ legacy as a bright, aspiring student and reduce him to nothing more than a violent, unpredictable, and dangerous criminal.
All this to protect the reputation of officers who operated outside of protocol and with egregious disregard for Darius’ life. To this day, Officer Ryan Spivey who first unlawfully tased Darius, initially escalating a situation that should and could have been resolved with the appropriate medical resources, and Officer Douglas Downing who unlawfully fired his weapon multiple times, ultimately killing Darius are both still employed by Denton PD, both still patrolling our streets. Neither were ever placed on leave pending an investigation. Neither of the Officers who both live outside of the Denton community have faced any repercussions for their actions that led to the unnecessary loss of a Denton life.
Perhaps the most disturbing facts surrounding Darius’ murder is the extent to which authorities persevered to withhold details and protect the identities of the officers who violated their oaths and caused the unnecessary injuries to Darius that ultimately killed him.
While body cam footage was finally released, this was only after months of pressure from the local community, which then resulted in a horde of unnecessary public attacks made by the Head of Police Frank Dixon and former Mayor Chris Watts who both directed their vitriol at Darius’ family, as well as the local activists who spoke up on their behalf. As a result, the community was provided the names of the four officers involved, along with a combined portion of body cam footage but authorities refused to acknowledge which of the four officers involved tased and shot Darius.
Still to this day, there has been no formal investigation conducted by the Denton County District Attorney’s Office into Darius’ murder, and there has yet to be a Grand Jury summoned to review the evidence. All the while, killer cop Douglas Downing and his accomplice Officer Ryan Spivey continue to travel to Denton daily to “protect and serve” our community.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of Darius Tarver’s execution, I aim to offer, if nothing else, a renewed conversation centered on the facts, and more importantly, a renewed spotlight on the threat these officers pose to our community. So, let us review the body cam footage step by step and see if the actions of Denton’s finest can still be defended as heroic.
January 21, 2020
Denton PD receives several phone calls shortly before 3 AM about a man walking through the corridors of their apartment complex knocking out porch lights, as well as a call from Darius’ roommate who explained that he had covered all of their apartment windows, barricaded them inside, and was acting highly out of character. A few moments later, four officers arrive at the scene.
Officer Douglass Joseph Downing: 30-year-old resident of Little Elm
- Body Cam ID: x81118293: featured in the bottom left of the compiled footage.
- Fried his weapon at two different instances and plugged Darius with three bullets within his 2-minutes of interaction.
Officer Ryan Christian Spivey:28-year-old resident of Fort Worth
- Body Cam ID: x81316520: featured in the top right of the compiled footage.
- Deployed his taser on Darius two different times.
Officer Michael Hernandez
- Body Cam ID: x81179535: featured in the top left of the compiled footage.
- Remained in the complex breezeway during entire engagement, did not facilitate an escalation.
Officer Latrice Pettaway
- (Body Cam x81118723) as pictured in bottom right of foursquare compiled footage.
- Was uninvolved in interaction with DJ which took place while she was on the phone with DJ’s roommate. After shooting, was first to render aide to DJ by identifying wounds and applying pressure.
The following is a step-by-step assessment of the events that unfolded on the night of January 21, 2020 based on the body camera footage. Each moment of importance is identified by a time stamp found in the top right corner of each officer’s cam screen, which remain largely synchronous throughout the recordings.
T09:09:18 – OfficerPettaway (Body Cam x81118723) stands at the foot of a stairwell with two other officers. The still below from Officer Pettaway’s body cam shows two officers, who will remain together throughout the entire interaction with Darius in the thirteen minutes that follow. Social Media images of Officer Ryan Spivey (Body Cam x81316520) included at the beginning of this report allow us to positively ID Officer Spivey standing to the left in this image. Shortly after this timestamp, Officer Pettaway return to her squad car to call DJ’s roommate in hopes of obtaining helpful information to help de-escalate the situation.
T09:09:02 – The still below is from Officer Ryan Spivey’s Body Cam (x81316520) and confirms his position to the left of and behind Officer Douglas Downing (Body Cam x81118293) as he stands at the base of the stairwell.
T09:09:11 – Officer Spivey (Body Cam x81316520) says to Officer Downing, “He’s aggressive cuz he told me to come up and find out a second ago what he had.”
T09:09:17 – Officer Downing (Body Cam x81118293) asks Officer Spivey (Body Cam x81316520), “if someone… if something did come up, did you find out what he had?” Following this remark, Officer Spivey is silent for several seconds, then s seen below, officer Downing looks directly into Officer Spivey’s Body Cam, at which time the two begin discussing objects that Darius could potentially use as a weapon.
T09:12:46 – Darius descends down the stairs as instructed by the officers while his hands remain at his sides.
A meat cleaver and a frying pan can be seen literally dangling in his fingertips. Darius is calm but obviously disoriented. He is not raising his voice at the officers but he is clearly struggling to communicate, as he calls out to his god repeatedly. Without ever identifying themselves as police, Officers Spivey and Downing both begin to shout commands at Darius, ordering him to drop the weapons. Darius remains silent, looking confused. Then, without provocation, Officer Spivey (Body Cam 8×1216520) tases Darius. Officer Hernandez can be seen in the breezeway in the far right of the still screens below maintain cover from a safe distance.
T09:12:47 – At the time Officer Spivey deploys his taser at Darius, Officer Downing’s Body Cam (x81118293) shows that he is standing just behind and slightly to the left of Officer Spivey.
T09:12:49 – In a natural response to Officer Spivey’s taser Deployment, Darius begins to lurch from the volts of electricity being fired through him. The still screen below is from Officer Douglas Downing’s Body Cam (x81118293) and shows Downing as he reaches forward to grab Officer Spivey (Body Cam x81316520) by his shoulder, to pull him out of his line of fire.
T09:12:50 – This timestamp marks the sound of Officer Downing’s gun firing a single shot into Darius who was not “charging” officers as later claimed by Police Chief Frank Dixon but, rather, he was falling.
The still screens below prove this. The first is from Officer Downing’s Body Cam (x81118293). It shows Officer Downing’s arms raised up on the top edges of the screen as he deploys his weapon against Darius who is seen in the middle. Notice that Darius’ feet are both pointed away from Officer Downing.
The second still below is from the exact same moment that Officer Downing shoots Darius the first time, but from Officer Hernandez’s Body Cam (x81179535) looking out from the breezeway, facing the direction of Officer Downing who has just shot towards both Officer Hernandez and Darius. It is important to note that Darius’ white under shirt is clearly exposed beneath his open front flannel, which makes it abundantly clear that Darius is facing Officer Hernandez, meaning is facing away from Officer Downing who shoots him in his rear left side as he falls towards the Officer from being tased.
This also disproves the false statements initially issued by Police Chief Frank Dixon that during this apparent three seconds of time that Darius “stabbed” or “swung a meat cleaver” at an officer. The footage shows clearly that he never came into contact with any officer, and that in fact, while in closest proximity to the officers after being tased, his back was facing them. He was simply responding to being tased.
T09:13:01 – After Darius was tased and shot once, his hands are empty.
The frying pan he held is on the ground at the base of the stairwell, and the meat cleaver is just behind his head as he lies on the ground yelling “my heavenly father” while holding his stomach in pain.
T09:13:13 – Officers Downing and Spivey confirm with one another that they have lethal weapons drawn on Darius. Then, Officer Hernandez (Body Cam x81179535) approaches, kicks the meat cleaver away and underneath a nearby car. From this moment forward, Darius can no longer be considered as potentially posing any kind of lethal threat.
T09:13:16 – Despite the fact that Darius has now already been tased and shot, completely disarmed, and lying on the ground, Officer Hernandez (Body Cam x81179535) fails to restrain him under the cover of his two fellow Officers. Instead, he immediately retreats to the hallway, as if he is quick to get out of the line of fire of his fellow Officers.
T09:13:20 – After watching Darius’ two failed attempts to return to his feet, the officers all allow Darius to get up while screaming at him to remain on the ground, at which point Officer Ryan Spivey (Body Cam x81316520) deploys his taser a second time. He stumbles over to the stairs, bends over, and picks up the aluminum frying pan. Then he turns around and heads down the sidewalk in the dark towards the officers yelling out to his god.
T09:13:25 – As Darius moves towards Officer Downing (Body Cam x81118293), and Officer Spivey (Body Cam x81316520), he has the frying pan in his right hand which remains lowered at his side, never once raised as a weapon towards the officers. This is clearly visible in the footage of both officers’ body cams as featured in the still screen below. Yet, without providing any commands to Darius or retreating a single step so as to allow Darius space and time to de-escalate, Officer Downing (Body Cam x81118293) fires two additional shots and Darius falls to the ground.
In less than sixty seconds of Darius calmly descending down the stairs as instructed by the Officers, he was berated with commands, immediately tased, shot, tased again, worked into a confused frenzy, and executed.
T09:14:04 – Upon hearing the shots fired, Officer Pettaway (Body Cam x81118723) immediately concludes her phone call with Darius roommate who had just explained that was not afraid Darius would hurt him, but that he was just frightened by Darius’ behavior in general, as something was obviously wrong. She returns from her car and asks, “What? Where’s the knife?” Officer Hernandez responds, “I kicked it away.” At the same time Officers Spivey and Downing both reply, “He kicked it away.” Their answers all serving as official confirmations that all three officers were aware that Darius posed no lethal threat at the time he was shot.
T09:14:29 – Officer Pettaway (Body Cam x81118723) then approaches Darius and removes the frying pan from underneath his body. Officer Pettaway’s body cam clearly shows her removing a silver toned aluminum pan without any deformation away from Darius’ body. The pan obviously never made any contact with an officer, nor was it ever yielded as a weapon at any time.
T09:16:44 – All three Officers, aside from Officer Downing who fired the shots at Darius then glove up to assist Darius. As Officer Hernandez applies pressure to his wounds, he remarks to Officer Pettaway and Officer Spivey, “look at the stitches all over his face.” The other two officers reply in unison, “yah.” Shockingly, in all this time the Officers had been at the scene, not one had taken the time to look Darius in the eyes, to see his face, to notice that his entire head was covered in serious injuries. Perhaps if they had, they would have realized that he was not being belligerent. He was not a wild, crazed, dope fiend. He was not a rabid animal. Darius was a young man in a serious mental and physical health crisis in need of help. He needed an ambulance. Instead, he got three bullets.
T09:16:50 – Officer Hernandez states, “The pulse is gone, I don’t have it anymore.” Officer Pettaway confirms the same.
T09:19:04 – A ranking officer arrives to the scene and begins to speak with Officer Douglas Downing, a conversation that is captured on his Body Cam (x81118293). Officer Douglas Downing can also be seen in the upper left corner of Officer Spivey’s Body Cam (x81316520) as he speaks to the ranking officer. Officer Downing tells the ranking officer that he is the only officer who fired shots. Meanwhile, Officer Spivey (Body Cam x81316520) and Officer Hernandez (Body Cam x81179535) remain with Darius’ body.
T09:19:12 – An unknown Officer arrives at the scene and approaches Officers Spivey and Hernandez. They ask, “You didn’t shoot did you?” Officer Spivey then confirms that Officer Douglass Downing was the only one to fire shots as he responds, “No. I had him in front of me… Downing was the only one with a good angle.” Officer Hernandez responds that he was not involved in the final altercation because he had to “come back across the breezeway.” Officer Spivey’s verification in conjunction with a thorough assessment of the body cam footage confirms that Officer Douglas Downing fired the fatal shots that took Darius’ life.
T09:19:42 – The ranking Officer on scene instructs another Officer to “take” Officer Downing, and “have him sit” with them and then tells Officer Downing to “make the phone calls you need to make.”
As we approach the one-year anniversary of Darius Tarver’s execution, we owe it to him and his family to at least ensure a renewed conversation centered on the facts, but we also have a responsibility to make the safety of our community a part of everyone’s responsibility.
A critical review of the body cam footage and a logical assessment of the break down should concern anyone living in Denton. These actions were not heroic, they were cowardice. They were not last resort options, they were the easy way out. They were not standard protocol, they were everything but that.
It’s quite simple really. If you think that your life, your child’s life, or your neighbor’s life is worth more than Officer Downing’s impatience over an aluminum frying pan, then you have to conclude that so too was Darius Tarver’s life.
Sign this petition and demand the resignation of Officer Douglas Downing. Quick, before he kills someone else.
When you’re done, join 200,000 other Texans and sign this petition demanding that the Justice Department intervene and conduct an investigation into Darius Tarver’s murder.
Finally, visit djtjusticenetwork.org, a non-profit set up by Darius’ father, Pastor Kevin Tarver to combat police brutality.