Father Suing Police For ‘Desecrating’ His Daughter’s Ashes While Searching Urn For Drugs

Father Suing Police For ‘Desecrating’ His Daughter’s Ashes While Searching Urn For Drugs Springfield Police Department

An Illinois man is suing the city of Springfield and six police officers involved in what he believes was an unlawful search of his car which led to the “desecration” of an urn containing his daughter’s ashes. Dartavius Barnes was stopped in April 2020 for speeding and running a stop sign, a police report of the incident reveals. Officers then cuffed him, placed him in the back of a squad car, and searched his car, where they upsettingly went through the ashes looking for drugs.

  1. Officers did request permission to search the vehicle. Bodycam footage of the incident did reveal that Barnes gave officers permission to look through the vehicle. While searching, an officer located a small circular urn, which police believe was shaped like a “rifle round” and which, the officer claimed, was often “utilized to contain narcotics.” The officer can then be heard saying: “Then I checked for cocaine, but it looks like it’s probably molly.”
  2. Police claimed they found a substance that tested positive for drugs in Barnes’ vehicle. However, when they showed Barnes the urn, he became upset and responded: “No, no no, bro. That’s my daughter. What are y’all doing, bro? Give me that bro, that’s my daughter.” Barnes used the urn to hold the ashes of his 2-year-old daughter Ta’Naja Barnes, who recently died.
  3. Now, Barnes wants justice for the violation. He filed a lawsuit against both the city and six officers who he claims violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. He also insists that they stopped his car without reasonable suspicion or probable cause that any crime had been committed. His attorney, James C. Pullos, insists that the officers acted “intentionally and maliciously.”
  4. The city claims its officers are immune from lawsuits. According to the city of Springfield, both the city and its police are protected by “qualified immunity as their conduct was justified by an objectively reasonable belief that it was lawful.”
  5. So what was their excuse for stopping him? According to police, the officer who stopped Barnes claims department radio conveyed a message that Barnes was a potential suspect for a local shooting, with his car having been hit by a bullet through the passenger side. Barnes wants “compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial” as well as costs, litigation fees, lawyer fees, and other relief. The case will be heard in August 2022.

Jennifer has been the managing editor of Bolde since its launch in 2014. Before that, she was the founding editor of HelloGiggles and also worked as an entertainment writer for Bustle and Digital Spy. Her work has been published in Bon Appetit, Decider, Vanity Fair, The New York TImes, and many more.