Members of the public joined the father of Darius Tarver, Kevin Tarver, at the Downtown Denton Square Thursday night to commemorate the life and death of his son.
“One year ago, we all know what happened on this particular day,” Kevin said addressing the sparse crowd. “Everyone knows that Darius was a senior criminal justice major here at the University of North Texas. And on my wall right now, I have a bachelor’s degree that he never got a chance to see.”
Denton Police killed Darius while responding to emergency calls received from The Forum apartment residents. They reported a man, later identified as Darius, who was banging on their doors asking to be let in. Residents also reported Darius for smashed light fixtures in the hallway with a frying pan. Darius stabbed an officer with a knife and police later fatally shot Darius, according to police reports. Police later released footage of the interaction.
Kevin said his son’s actions were the result of a mental health crisis caused by improperly treated head trauma. Weeks before the confrontation with police, Darius was involved in a car crash and subsequently treated at Medical City Denton ICU. He said his son’s behavior soon began to change after the crash and ultimately caused his death.
One year later, Kevin continues to seek justice for his son.
Kevin is a pastor at his own church, New Resurrection House of Faith Christian Ministries, which he has ministered since 2014. He said he was already ministering and preaching and now he sees the loss of his son and his passion for seeking justice as a continuation of his service to God and to others.
“Because of my son’s death, it inspired me with a passion to fight in an area that I was already doing locally,” Kevin said. “But now I’m in a position that I have to fight for not only my son, but [for] other lives. It’s another form of ministry, and it’s another form of saving lives. And the thing is, when you sign on to be a Christian, you sign on to be a soldier.”
The vigil organized by Denton for Diversity, Denton Bail Fund and Young Democrats of Denton County featured other speakers from the community as well.
“I have mixed feelings,” Director of Diversity Inclusion for SGA Tommy DeJesus said. “On one hand, I’m happy that we’re able to commemorate the life of Darius. But on the other hand, I realize that in a perfect world, this should not be.”
DeJesus is a transfer student at UNT, and he said his move from Michigan to Texas was motivated by a desire to leave a negative police presence in his own community. DeJesus arrived in Denton in January 2020, the same month Darius was killed by Denton Police.
“Seeing that that exists, no matter where you go in America, and just seeing everybody come during the summer in the name of equity and justice and freedom was a beautiful thing,” DeJesus said. “I feel like seeing and helping Mr. Tarver with everything has been a very great honor for me.”
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, known for his work on racial justice issues, was present at the vigil with his son. Merritt has represented other families in the state of Texas throughout 2020 who have experienced similar violence from police forces. Most recently, Killeen resident Patrick Warren whose death was captured on a home Ring system.
“From a man’s standpoint, you deserve to be actively grieving somewhere, when instead you took up this fight for all of us, so that we don’t have to go through what you’ve gone through,” Merritt said to Kevin. “As long as you are out there fighting, I’ll be standing with you, God bless.”
The vigil ended with a minute of silence, recognizing the death of Darius.
Featured Image: Kevin Tarver speaks at a vigil for Darius Tarver, his son, one year after his death on Jan. 22, 2021. Image by Ricardo Vazquez Garcia