‘Four Officers Versus One Young Student’: Grand Jury Rules Not to Indict Officer In Fatal 2020 Shooting of Black Texas Man In Midst of ‘Mental Health Crisis’

A Texas grand jury declined to indict the Denton police officer who fatally shot a Black University of North Texas student in January 2020.

The Denton County grand jury issued a “no bill” Thursday, March 18, in relation to the police shooting that claimed the life of 23-year-old Darius Tarver.

Tarver was shot and killed by police on Jan. 21, 2020, at his Denton apartment complex after officers responded to a report about someone acting strangely.

The Denton County District Attorney’s Office informed the police department about the “no bill” ruling the day the decision was made, but Tarver’s family didn’t learn that the officer won’t face charges until WFAA contacted them.

According to their attorney Lee Merritt, the family was shocked and disappointed to hear about the decision.

“Four officers versus one young student in a mental health crisis could not get to safety, get him to mental health care,” Merritt said. “Instead they shot him to death.”

Darius Tarver was shot and killed by police on Jan. 21, 2020, at his Denton apartment complex after officers responded to a report about someone acting strangely. (Photo: Family photo)

Denton police said an internal investigation into the shooting to determine if departmental policies were followed will end within 30 days. The officer’s name has not been released and he remains on administrative duty.

The shooting happened after police responded to a report of a man who was banging on doors and breaking lights at an apartment complex.

In body camera footage of the shooting, Tarver is seen holding a meat cleaver, a knife, and frying pan as officers order him to drop the objects as they try to get him to come down from a second-floor landing.

As Tarver approached officers, he was Tased and dropped the frying pan, but cut an officer’s shoulder with a knife.

An officer shot Tarver, who fell to the ground, then got back up before being Tased and shot two more times. Tarver was transferred to a hospital where he died.

Denton police Chief Frank Dixon has said the body camera footage of the shooting shows that Tarver was a threat to the officers and may have been acting under the influence of drugs.

But Tarver’s family said he was acting strangely because of a traumatic brain injury he’d recently suffered in a traffic accident.

“It was still murder regardless of what the verdict was, so does that make you angry? Yeah,” Kevin Tarver told the Dallas Observer about his son’s death. “But what do you do with the anger? I give it to God.”

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