A jury quickly determined that two Fort Worth Texas officers did not use excessive force during a fatal drug raid, which lead to the death of a 34-year-old Black man. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the family of Jermaine Darden filed a wrongful death lawsuit against officers W. F. Snow and Javier Romero, claiming that the force used on their loved one, in which they reportedly kicked, beat and used a taser, was unnecessary. The lawsuit also alleged that officers made racist jokes as they drove through Darden’s predominately Black neighborhood, the Star-Telegram reports. The jury concluded their verdict within 30 minutes, deciding that no damages would be recovered to the family.
Darden, who was described in the report as a large man weighing approximately 340 pounds, was sitting at home on his couch when police from a Fort Worth Zero Tolerance Unit barged into his home with a “no-knock” warrant after a confidential informant notified police that he had been selling cocaine.
Officers claim that Darden resisted arrest. He was shocked twice with a taser – for five seconds each, according to autopsy report. The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office determined that Darden died from “sudden cardiac death,” which was caused by heart disease and “application of restraint.” It was also stated that the officers’ excessive force could have been a trigger for Darden’s cardiac arrest.
“After being Tasered a number of times, a nonresponsive Darden was placed into a seated position and it was apparent that he was either dead or taking his last breath,” according to the lawsuit.
Darden gasped for air, according to the report, and residents in the home said that he could not breath, but they were ignored. The family accused Snow, Romero and other officers of causing Darden’s death.
Darden’s sister said her brother’s body looked beaten following the raid. “After he was killed he was a bruised, bloody mess. There was a shoe imprint on his face,” she said.
Kenneth East, the attorney representing Snow, said that Darden’s medical fragility was not known by the officers prior to the raid. “This officer served as the point man in one of the most dangerous jobs that an officer can do,” East said. “On most people a Taser works. But Darden immediately pushed back up. The officer thought he was resisting.”
The attorney claimed that Darden continued to be non-compliant after a second taser was deployed. “He (Darden) died from a severe underlying coronary disease and his own struggle,” East stated.
Snow testified on Tuesday stating that Darden did not follow his instructions. “I was able to get him on the ground for a second, but he got back up,” Snow said. He also claimed that after the taser was deployed, he did not “lay a hand on Darden.” However, Snow did say he believed that Darden told him he couldn’t breathe. Snow said he wasn’t ignoring Darden. Instead, he was focusing on “getting him into custody.”
When Romero testified, he said, “I struck him on the left side of the face to distract him and get him handcuffed. I heard someone shout Taser and backed off. If we are touching the person, we could get some current. He went down for a split second and then he popped back up.” He added that he heard people saying that Darden had asthma, but did nothing about it.
The jury came to their quick decision after answering the “first of 17 questions that were included in the jury instructions and did not have to consider anything else.”
The family plans to appeal the case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Daryl Washington, the lead attorney for Darden’s family said that was the quickest deliberation he has seen from a jury.
“Sadly, Jermaine Darden was killed in his own home,” Washington said. “If the Fort Worth Police Department would have taken the responsibility to properly train its officers, perhaps Atatiana Jefferson would still be alive today. The Constitution should protect everyone, regardless of race, sex, religion, position or their economic status in life.”
Jefferson was killed by Aaron Dean, a former Fort Worth police officer, while in her home in October. Dean resigned from the department before he could be fired and has since been indicted for Jefferson’s murder.
The judge presiding over Darden’s case dismissed all claims the family made against the city. The judge’s decision is on appeal at the at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The attorneys of the officers are also waiting for the appeals court’s opinion.
Based on the video footage from the incident, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that Darden “raised his hands when the officers entered the residence, and it appears that he rolled over onto his face at one point after the officers instructed him to do so.”
The appeals court said that based on the evidence in the case, “a jury could conclude that no reasonable officer on the scene would have thought that Darden was resisting arrest.”
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