An Illinois man is suing Springfield city, alleging the police unlawfully took an urn with his daughter’s ashes.
While taking the ashes, they said it tested positive for meth.
New body camera footage shows Dartavius Barnes handcuffed and upset as officers take the urn from his car. The event happened during a traffic stop in 2020 on April 6.
In his lawsuit, Mr Barnes said police desecrated his two-year-old daughter’s ashes, who died in 2019. However, police have denied any wrongdoing, according to court documents.
Local media outlets WRSP and WICS obtained the body camera footage last week.
Mr Barnes filed a lawsuit against the officers involved and the city in October. He alleges that the officers unlawfully seized the sealed urn containing his daughter’s Ta’Naja’s ashes. They opened it and spilt some of the ashes while testing it for drugs.
Mr Barnes daughter died of neglect and starvation in February 2019. Ta’Naja’s mother, Twanka Davis, was sentenced to 20 years in jail after pleading guilty to first-degree murder charges.
Statement from the officers’ lawyers
In a court filing, the officers’ lawyers said that the police were acting within the scope of their vocation and under colours of law.
Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as an objectively reasonable belief justified their conduct. The document said adding that it was lawful.
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government employees, including police officers. It protects them from lawsuits arising from decisions made while on the job.
Mr Barnes was pulled last year for allegedly speeding and disobeying traffic signs.
The body camera footage shows Mr Barnes cooperating with the police as he is placed in handcuffs. He is sitting and waiting in the back of the squad car while officers inspect his vehicle.
If asked by the officers if he has anything before they search, he says Mr Barnes says he has some weed. Around 80g of marijuana was in his possession, which is thrice the legal amount allowed in the city of Illinois.
Officers then show him the urn, a metallic object about the size of a finger, and say that it has tested positive for ecstasy or meth.
Mr Barnes was released but with a court notice for an illegal hold of cannabis.