Ta’Naja Barnes is a familiar name in Springfield, Illinois. The reason why is tragic. The 2 year-old child was killed by her mother, Twanka L. Davis, in February 2019, mere months after the Illinois Department of Family Services closed an investigation into reported abuse and neglect of the child. There’s even a reform law named after Ta’Naja, which requires more safety checks for a child to be returned to their family after foster care.
Still, a civil suit filed this week alleges that the Springfield Police Department “desecrated and spilled out the ashes” of Ta’Naja while her father, Dartavius Barnes, begged them to stop.
According to court documents, police officers Colton Redding, Brian Riebling, and Adam Westlake, Juan Resendez, Nicholas Renfro, and Regan Molohon, conducted an “unlawful search” of Barnes’ car throughout a traffic stop.
Bodycam video of the April 6 incident, released by the Springfield ABC affiliate WCIS, shows Barnes handcuffed in the back of a car while an officer holds up some of his daughter’s ashes.
The officer says the substance tested positive for traces of meth or ecstasy. “No, no, no bro, that’s my daughter!” Barnes replies, visibly upset as he tries to grab the remains back. “What are y’all doing?”
“Please give me my daughter,” Barnes went on. “Put her in my hand, bro. You all are disrespectful, bro … Give me my daughter. That’s very important to me.”
The Washington Post reports that Barnes was stopped for around 20 minutes, and 80 grams of marijuana was recovered in his car. He was not arrested, but “given a notice to appear in court for illegal possession of cannabis.”
Court documents allege that police officers intended to “cause severe emotional distress or knew that there was a high probability that this conduct would do so.”
Representatives for the Springfield Police Department did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, though the Chicago Tribune viewed a counter filing that said, “Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as their conduct was justified by an objectively reasonable belief that it was lawful.”
The local television station WAND News obtained a statement from Assistant Police Chief Kenneth Scarlette who said, “these are all personnel matters. As such the department will withhold any further comment.” The case will go to trial in 2022.