Damian Daniels Hearing – January 29, 2021, 8 am Eastern
Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Damian Daniels
- Rapporteur Ria Julien
- Commissioner Ms. Hina Jilani
- Commissioner Prof. Niloufer Bhagwat
- Mr. Lee Merritt, attorney for the Daniels family
- Ms. Annette Daniels, the mother of Damian Daniels
- Mr. Brendan Daniels, the brother of Damian Daniels
- Mr. Kevin Tarver, the father of Darius Tarver
Ria Julien 00:00
[Welcome to the hearings of] the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of the unjustified killings and maimings of Black people by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Damian Daniels. There will also be a discussion during this hour of the case of Darius Tarver. My name is Ria Julien, and I am the rapper tour for this hearing. Presiding over the hearing today are our commissioners Niloufer Bhagwat of India and Hina Jilani of Pakistan. The witnesses for this hearing are Attorney Lee Merritt, as well as family members of both of the victims. For the family, for the Daniels family, we have Ms. Annette Daniels, the mother of Damian Daniels, as well as Brandon Daniels. For the Tarver family we have Mr. Kevin Tarver. Today, there will be 50 minutes for the hearing. Witnesses will testify followed by a period of questions from commissioners. I will call time at the 30 minute mark and at the 45 minute mark, please excuse my interruptions, commissioners Bhagwat and Jilani. I now present to your first witness, Attorney Lee Merritt. Mr. Merritt, would you please confirm your name?
Lee Merritt 01:41
Sylvester Stacy Lee Merritt, commonly known as Lee Merritt.
Ria Julien 01:44
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Lee Merritt 01:50
Ria Julien 01:52
Very good. As you present additional witnesses, please give me a moment to swear them in as well. You may now begin.
Lee Merritt 02:00
Thank you so much for this, now second, opportunity to meet before this honorable commission. It is my hope at this time around to really center the families who have made themselves available to participate. This panel has had the opportunity to talk with me about my practice in about some of the cases that I’ve come to represent. And I am looking forward to hearing from the families particularly of Damian Daniels and Darius Tarver. I do want to frame their testimony in a greater issue. Last time I had the chance to speak before this panel we discussed a mental health crisis occurring in the United States and the failures in policing to respond adequately to health concerns, instead focusing on the use of force and brutality particularly aimed at the Black community. In this particular presentation, we will be focusing on an extension of that same problem, force directed at members of or members or former members of the United States Armed Services. Damian Daniels, as you will learn comes from a veteran family, his mother, Annette Watkins had three sons and all three of her sons served in the US military in a direct capacity and often in active combat zones. So her youngest son Damien Daniels was 30 years old, had just purchased a home in San Antonio and began under to undergo what we believe to be a mental health crisis. He contacted his family in, similar to the case of Patrick Warren Sr. which we spoke about in a previous presentation. His family did not call law enforcement. They contacted the nearest mental health resource available to them, which was the VA hospital and the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross dispatched the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department who unleashed a brutal officer that I will tell you more about, once Mrs. Annette and Mr. Brendan Daniels has a chance to speak, but an officer with a history of domestic violence. An officer with a history of shooting unarmed civilians undergoing mental health crisis. Damian Daniels was his second victim, he remains on the force and in remains in the capacity able to cause additional harm to the community unmolested by the powers that be within Bexar County, San Antonio or the Texas area. With that said, I am going to defer this time to Ms. Annette Daniels who will tell you a little bit more about her son and the events leading up to his death.
Ria Julien 05:00
Miss Annette Watkins Daniels, I’d like to swear you in at this time. Might please confirm your name.
Annette Daniels Watkins 05:10
Annette Daniels Watkins.
Ria Julien 05:12
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Annette Daniels Watkins 05:18
Ria Julien 05:19
Thank you, you may begin.
Annette Daniels Watkins 05:22
Yes, um, he had, Damien was suffering. He, he was okay like two or three days before, but all of a sudden he started to, you could see where, he was talking different things, different stuff. But initially, he was like afraid someone was trying to enter his house, his home. And that’s what brought on the paranoia being plus losing, losing loved ones. But he was kind of in fear. So I feel like this was mental health misunderstood, because it seems as though the police misunderstood him as a threat instead of someone that needed to help. He wasn’t threatening, he wasn’t suicidal. He wasn’t trying to hurt himself or anything. He was, you know, pretty much afraid that someone’s trying to hurt him. So you, like I say, it’s mental health misunderstood, so the police seem to take it as a threat. And just because, you know, whatever the weapon or whatever he had on him, they took it as a threat. And they tried to, you know, try to disarm him because they, you know, feel like they pose a threat to himself or someone else. But they misunderstood. It wasn’t that it was it that he was just in fear. He didn’t want anyone to hurt him.
And that was his defense, because he was home alone, living by himself, and fearing that someone was trying to come in his house because of the paranoia that he was in now. So yeah, but other than that, he was a good person, was proud of serving the military, made sergeant, and everything there and struggled and tried hard to just get his, get him a house, and he loved that city. But things just went wrong from where they could with them coming out to get, you know, to help him. So we specifically told them that he was in a paranoid state. It wasn’t that he was threatening anyone or anything. He was just in a paranoid state. And they said they were gonna get him to help, but they didn’t give him the help that he needed. And it was just devastating that they didn’t do what they said they were gonna do. You know, they said, you know, we’re gonna get him to help but in return, we get the call saying he’s had an altercation with like, Where’s the altercation? Where did the struggle come in? So you know, we need the answers. So how, what what turn these events took this day?
Lee Merritt 08:19
Did she freeze on everyone’s side or just my side. Okay, I’m gonna pick Mr. Watkins. Yeah, you want to wait just for a brief moment? Yes, ma’am. Okay, Miss Watkins. I’m gonna start talking. I’m going to introduce Brendon in a moment. Yes, ma’am. And there’ll be there’ll be plenty of time for you to follow up. And we I’m sure this commission will want to continue to hear from you. The next witness I’ll introduce is Brendan Daniels. Brendan Daniels is going to talk to you specifically about the days leading up to his brother’s murder. About the mental health concerns that he expressed. And then I will speak to you a bit about Javier Salazar, who is the sheriff for Bexar county responsible for the unit that was dispatched to Mr. Daniels home. And then Jonathan Rodriguez, the officer responsible or the firing officer, who remains with the force. It’s worth noting that Jonathan Rodriguez had a previous domestic dispute, charge criminal charge by his department in 2013. And in 2010, he shot another unarmed civilian suffering from a mental health crisis. Despite those two previous activities, he remained on the force and was dispatched to this specific mental health call. Mr. Daniels will tell you more about it now.
Ria Julien 09:53
Mr. Daniels I’d like to swear you in at this time. Brandon Daniels, please confirm your name.
Lee Merritt 10:07
We’re not quite hearing yet. Brendan, are you having issues with your mic?
Ria Julien 10:29
Yes. Yeah. No.
Brendan Daniels 10:41
All right, How about now?
Ria Julien 10:42
Brendan Daniels 10:43
Sorry about that. So my name is Brendan Daniels.
Ria Julien 10:49
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Brendan Daniels 10:54
Ria Julien 10:55
You may begin.
Brendan Daniels 10:57
Alright, so my brother was suffering from mental health. He initially contacted us that weekend prior to bear Sheriff county coming out and conducting the health and welfare check. We initially called the American Red Cross to reach out for assistance. Because we believed that he was going through a mental health crisis. He was telling us things that were controversial to his everyday life. such things as like seeing cats with spots. Believing that someone broke into his house, he called me crying, telling me that he believed he played his music too loud, that he messed up. And, you know, me, I know, and my brother personally knew that this was out of character. So I reached out to one of the resources that they give us through the military, which is the American Red Cross. Upon contacting them, they reached out to Bexar County Sheriff’s Office leading us to believe that this was the best resource that they had available, come to find out that this was not the best source or course of action to use for this case. Upon them arriving the the first time which I believe was on that Monday, they came out, my brother was not present at the time. Officer spoke with us. And he told us that, hey, as our Sheriff’s Department has protocol, and we can’t physically make your brother go, but you can reach out to probate courts one and two, if you would like us to physically take your brother to get mental assistance. And upon that time, I told them that no, we will not be seeking to forcefully remove my brother from his residence for help, because we don’t want to altercation between him and them. We don’t want them getting hurt. We don’t want him getting hurt. We wanted it to be a neutral thing. We want him to go willingly.
After that, after all the incidents report, came out that he reached out to the police himself. And that lets me know that my brother was definitely understanding that he needed help. Because, you know, he never reaches out for help, unless, you know, if he needs something, he’ll contact me or my mom, he won’t reach to any other outside sources for it. So the fact that he reached out to the police himself, pleads greatly in his case, that that he understood that he needed help upon that second officer coming out. Same thing, they came out, estimate he needed help. He told them that he saw ghosts and he was seeing apparitions. The officer asked him if he had taken any medicine or anything like that. asked him if he wanted medical assistance. My brother refused medical assistance, which he has every right to do. The officer left the scene, there was no altercation. The next day, he called and he said they needed help. So he reached out. Used the reference number that they gave us for the case because we knew that, you know we didn’t want to go to any other source because they were familiar with that case. So we contacted them again with the case number and they sent out the sheriff’s department again for the third time. And upon this time my brother did not answer the door. He contacted me and my mom told us that he was in trouble. We told him that we had sent someone there to help him. We contacted them again and let them know that hey, if the officers answer the door, will you go answer the door this time? He said yes. And upon him answering the door he went out we lost connection. We tried to keep him on the phone to try to keep everything to where we know what’s happening at all times. We end up losing contact with him on his cell phone And then the share of reached out to me. He asked me what was going on, I told him that my brother was suffering from paranoia. I told him that he may or may not be armed.
And that he needed medical assistance. They told me they were going to check on them to see everything, see what was going on. So they hung up. They talked to him for 30 minutes. After that 30 minutes they call him contacted me back, they said, Hey, your brother seems like he’s a little out of it. We’re going to take him to get the mental health that he needs. Upon this time, I believed that they had already had him in their vehicle or they had a plan. They did not mention that he had a firearm. They did not mention that they were going to detain him. They were not sent there to detain him. My brother was not under arrest. He had not committed a crime. He simply needed mental health. He needed mental health. It’s just like if someone was suffering from a heart attack, you don’t send someone to hurt someone that’s having a heart attack, you send them to help them, to perform CPR, to get them on the stretcher, to get them on the gurney, to get them airway, establish the airway, things of that nature. But upon their arrival, from the initial reports, they see that they waited for him to look another way and once they once they caught him off guard, they tried to jump on him and take his weapon which is a complete violation of his of his civil rights. He has every right to bear arms in the state of Texas. Everyone in the state of Texas has a gun or a knife on their hip. And they’re not perceived as a threat but in this case, they focus more on his weapon, then getting him the help that he needed.
Lee Merritt 16:58
Following this incident, the family the Daniels family contacted my office. We met with the Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales, And Mr. Gonzales met with this family with this office and immediately referred to this incident as murder as a police murder. I actually tempered Mr. Gonzales to say, you know, we haven’t seen the video evidence. And that video evidence still has not been released to my office or the family despite repeated requests in the pending litigation. And until we cautioned him about the language and he doubled down, made sure that we knew that it was his opinion that this case was a case of unjustifiable use of force. And that it was murder. However, despite that opinion since the date of the incident 8/25/2020 or September 25 of 2020. We have not heard from Mr. Gonzales or his office. The officer remains with, on the police force, he was on temporary administrative leave. No additional actions has taken concerned his employment or investigation since and has been, the family has more or less been shunned by Bexar county and the district attorney’s office. There is a civil remedy available to the family that will have to face the same hurdles as other cases in the state of Texas, it is difficult to overcome qualified immunity. The barrier of qualified immunity is a doctrine of special protections, is a judicially created doctrine by the courts of the United States where judges have determined a special protocol that officers have additional safeguards that will shield officers from prosecution.
On behalf of my office and the Daniels family. civil liability is something that we believe is well within our capabilities. However criminal liability is necessary to determine this kind of conduct in criminal liability and getting the legal apparatus of the region, in the nation, to take these cases seriously and offer serious punishment towards officers who are found in violation of their duties has been difficult to come by. I would like to tie this case into the case of Darius Tarver. I understand that his father Kevin Tarver is with us Because of the format of the presentation. I don’t see him. And I’m not sure if I can introduce him or not. I’m assuming silence means he is not present. I’m not sure who else is.
Charlotte Kates 19:43
Excuse me, Mr. Tarver is not here. I’m sorry to interrupt. If we do have further contact information, we could try to follow up with him to see if he is able to join us.
Lee Merritt 19:55
Now if you don’t mind I’ll provide a summary of his son’s murder as well. And then we can continue on.
Charlotte Kates 20:02
Thank you so much.
Lee Merritt 20:04
Darius Tarver, we did have a chance to speak about actually during my last presentation, but he was a student, a 23 year old criminal justice major at the University of North Texas. He had been involved in a motor vehicle accident the previous week, and had suffered a significant brain injury. As a result, he became sensitive to light and suffered from different forms of dementia, that manifested in itself in both again sensitivity to light and noise and sort of manic behavior, where he was carrying around a pan and a kitchen knife and removing lights from the hallways of his apartment complex. That caused others great alarm. They contacted law enforcement, law enforcement received a description from his roommate that Mr. Tarver was behaving bizarrely, but non threatening. He appeared to maybe be out of it, as is the term that was used. Law enforcement responded with four tactical officers. This is January 21 of 2020. So approximately a year ago, law enforcement responded with four officers, one in training, three veteran officers, who took on tactical positions around Mr Tarver’s apartment complex
There was a stairway leading from his apartment to the ground level. Mr. Tarver descended the stairs and stood holding the frying pan and others concealed weapons pointing up to the sky saying something to the effect of I will put my trust in the Father, God will be my shield, clearly, sort of muttering to himself. At that point he was tased in this arm, and then shot as as he responded to the tasing. He fell to the ground, he was disarmed, the pen and the kitchen knife had been removed from him. Law enforcement continued to surround him, flashlights on him, kicked away the knife that was available to him, but they allowed him to stand back up and grab the frying pan. When he stood back up and grab the frying pan, while the frying pan never got any higher than his his leg level, he was shot two more times and killed. Mr Tarver again, a member of the National Organization of black law enforcement, NOBLE, and a an aspiring law enforcement officer was killed himself by the police department on January 21, of 2020. At this time, we’ll take questions.
Ria Julien 22:54
Thank you, Mr. Merritt. I will turn it over now to the commissioners.
Niloufer Bhagwat 23:03
Can you hear me?
Lee Merritt 23:05
Ria Julien 23:12
Commissioner Bhagwat, are you proceeding with a question?
Lee Merritt 23:17
Yes Commissioner Bhagwat, I hear you.
Niloufer Bhagwat 23:21
Could you tell whether the reaction of the law enforcement authority you have described in these two cases would be the same. If the two people were white, instead of African American?
Lee Merritt 23:51
It has been my experience in the data reflects that people who are suffering a mental health crisis are 16 times more likely to be brutalized by law enforcement despite the color of their skin. However, Black veteran, Black people with mental health crisis or Black citizens in general, are statistically 2.5 times more likely to be molested, brutalized or killed by law enforcement. Those numbers go up as you get into concentrated areas, inner cities, etc. that are over policed and offered often over brutalized.
Niloufer Bhagwat 24:28
The brutality of the police, in respect of mental health cases is broadly the same in respect of all races, except that the degree is higher in the case of African Americans.
Lee Merritt 24:43
That’s correct, Commissioner Bhagwat. Yes, I would. I would concur. That it is more likely to have force used against you if you’re suffering from a mental health crisis, that is a particularly vulnerable community in general. Because and I want to emphasize, American Veterans often suffer from undiagnosed and untreated mental health crisis, there’s a greater threat to the veteran population here in the States. However, if you’re a veteran, and you’re suffering a mental health crisis, and you’re African American, that puts you at the most risk for danger in the States.
Niloufer Bhagwat 25:19
I would also like to understand, why didn’t the American Red Cross in the first instance, which again, why did they convert this? Why did they send this issue? Why did they send, ask to send this Sheriff’s Department, police department, instead of the Veterans Hospital having a counseling center or some such provision to assist the veteran?
Lee Merritt 25:51
Yes, Your Honor. The the answer to that question, I believe has to do with the hold that the American policing system has on the economy of local municipalities and regions, they stand to benefit economically from answering the response to these kinds of calls. That way that the public safety resources will be continued to continually directed to the law enforcement apparatus, be it the Sheriff’s Office of the police department. The American Red Cross receives a separate set of funding, they don’t receive the kind of funding that will allow them to have a responsive unit of medical professionals to respond to these kind of calls. And so they use as a proxy law enforcement to get the would be patient to their facilities. It is an ineffective system, but it is, I believe, a manifestation, if you will, of the whole that law enforcement has on the regional budgets and economies throughout the country.
Niloufer Bhagwat 26:50
I don’t understand this aspect. Could you clarify this a little more, that the police departments benefit from such activity? Or funding for this?
Lee Merritt 27:06
Yeah, and that’s what I mean. Yes, Your Honor. The the answer to your question, I believe, is that they receive additional funding if they can respond to more calls, if it is solely their responsibility. And I can see that my office is based out of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in Philadelphia, the police officer unions have negotiated so that they answer all emergency calls, they get first dibs at that. And as long as their officers are being called out, and there’s a demand for their services. Then when it comes for budgeting time within the city, they receive a greater share of the public safety budget, which red represents the largest portion of the budget of most municipalities.
Niloufer Bhagwat 27:48
It would appear in this tragic case. both the cases are both the cases are equally tragic. In one case, it is a veteran. He served in a combat zone. Did he serve in a combat zone? So for the US military, and then when he obviously has a post traumatic stress disorder, is disposed of by law enforcement.
Lee Merritt 28:18
Niloufer Bhagwat 28:22
Lee Merritt 28:27
I’m sorry, I missed a part.
Niloufer Bhagwat 28:29
Are these throwaway soldiers, the veterans?
Lee Merritt 28:33
Yes, these are veterans. And it’s worth noting that his brother Brendan Daniels, for this commission has heard from is also a veteran. And his brother Alvin Daniels is also a veteran. Annette Watkins sent all three of her sons to serve in the American military who served in combat zones.
Niloufer Bhagwat 28:50
So there’s really no mental health assistance given to military veterans. In real, on the ground.
Lee Merritt 29:00
There is no service available made available for this foreseeable group of vulnerable citizens. Mr. Daniels can probably speak more directly Brendan himself to the services available for mental health for our veteran forces.
Ria Julien 29:14
I would just like to mention that it is we are 30 minutes into the hearing. There’s 20 minutes left.
Hina Jilani 29:20
May I ask a few questions now.
Lee Merritt 29:24
Yes, your honor.
Hina Jilani 29:27
Mr. Merritt, just in continuation of the queries that are put by my colleague to you. What is still not clear to me is are there official protocols for the police now, one case is that of a veteran and that’s why they call the Red Cross first because that was what they were, the information they had in terms of how they can initiate help for any kind of health and welfare assistance. But, But there must be official protocols set up for the police or the first responders and for the general public, for for answering and responding to these health and regular calls. And I’m distinguishing this from emergency calls where there is fear from a crime that a citizen makes. So just take me through. If you have information on that, what are the protocols that are set up generally, for people who just want the police to go and see if a mentally disturbed patient is, you know, not in a state to injure himself or to give help to such a person during this period of distress?
Lee Merritt 30:55
Commissioner Jilani, Thank you for the question. concerning what are the, which are the protocols? And at first, the first answer to the question is that it changes from region to region, from state to state, there is no national policy concerning how to respond to folks who are suffering from a mental health crisis, or any other medical emergency besides possibly an ambulance. But if the family had called an ambulance to the scene, the ambulance would have called law enforcement. Because there does not seem to be in, while the commissioner I agree is right that there ought to be some sort of protocol that exists. But there is no universal protocol. And in this particular region, we’ve dealt with the cases of Patrick Warren Sr. in our last presentation, who called the sheriff’s department, the sheriff’s department having a relatively new mental health protocol set up the day before he was killed. But when the resources ran low for that, and when those officers weren’t available, they received a standard police officer. In the case of Darius Tarver, another mental health call, they received a standard police officer and that was the appropriate protocol for the region of Denton County.
In the case of Bexar County, they received a standard police officer as a response to the Red Cross call. That is their standard protocol. So to send a militarized officer to deal with this health situation is obviously not an effective protocol. But that is seems to be the only real setup in place. If someone’s in a medical or mental health emergency, and they need and they cannot get themselves to a treatment facility, then law enforcement is sent out what we often in the courts often use these law enforcement deputies and sheriff’s as well. And when they dispatch them, to pick up someone. For example, on the same day, unfortunately, the same day that Mr. Daniels was killed and another military veteran named Adrian Roberts in North Carolina was suffering from a mental health crisis. And Mr. Roberts’ wife contacted law enforcement. Contacted this country, I’m sorry, contacted the courts told him about his condition, they agreed to set up an involuntary commitment, meaning law enforcement would go secure the home and take him to a mental health facility, they agreed to meet with his wife, by order of a court to go and extract him. Law enforcement violated the order in that case went about, the way they attempted to extract him from his home. And when they said that he was holding a kitchen knife, they shot him to death as well. This is a common problem that I see almost on a daily if not weekly, if not daily basis.
Hina Jilani 33:38
Thank you. That clarifies my mind a little bit on this. But I’m still, you know, conscious of the fact that there are different laws and different systems that states can establish for the law enforcement and for first responders within their jurisdictions. Now, on the one hand, that would pose a problem for us to make a universal recommendations because each state would have different laws. Just to ask you one question, in order to overcome that challenge that we may have in writing our report and making our recommendations. Who would you suggest we address the recommendations to in general? Or would we would we then have to ask the state of the United States as such, to ensure that there is legislation or at least policy directives, which would bind the states to a certain level of precautions that they need to take in order to ensure that police misconduct is minimized in all these kinds of cases, and especially in the case of responding to health and welfare calls?
So my question to you here, first of all, is the Department of Justice at the federal level? I presume there must be the same kind of an agency, also at the state level. So when we are addressing our recommendations, do we would it be appropriate for us to address it both to the Department of Justice at the federal level, and to make recommendations into, in connection with investigation and inquiries on these kinds of cases that we are hearing where, according to the victim and their families, justice has not been received. So I’ve also seen in some literature, that the Department of Justice at the federal level has shown concern with regard to this rising and this escalating problem of police response and police brutality towards the Black community. And a disproportionate number of people who have been treated in a manner in which they should not have been treated. So let’s say the Department of Justice at the federal level, what kind of power would they have in terms of commenting, or directing any state related law enforcement, high level or superior authorities to want to caution them about what is happening in the state?
Lee Merritt 36:28
Thanks, Thank you, Commissioner for that question. And it is rather involved, and I will try to walk through each piece. If I miss out on a section, please feel free to remind me. The first question was, where does the record where would you all be directing your recommendations, which I think is is a central question to actually sort of overcoming this, this crisis? Your I believe the appropriate place to start would be with the United States congressional lawmakers. Those lawmakers, for example, have passed and have in place a particular law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, if we’re dealing specifically with individuals who are suffering from mental health crisis, and the only response that that seems to be available in most regions, is a militarized group of police officers, who often use deadly force of brutality when, when a when necessary, that what the ADA says is that if you have a predictable group of a vulnerable population. It could be the Black population. But with with regard to the ADA, which is about disabilities, of folks suffering from disabilities, then it is necessary for each region throughout the country, the federal government has promulgated that each region throughout the country must make reasonable accommodations. And that is an important legal term in this discussion, reasonable accommodations, to provide a different service for this particularly vulnerable community that obviously, is not benefiting from the accommodations currently available.
The laws have stances that these reasonable accommodations, for example, might be a group of medical professionals that the department or the Department of, instead of a police department, a mental health department or a health department that would send out a non militarized group of medical professionals to respond. That will be a reasonable accommodation for this vulnerable population. However, it has been argued that that would be an undue burden to the state to have to have a separate, you know, group of responders, that is beyond the paramedics, beyond 911, is specifically designed for mental health. And that is that is something that we’ve been arguing in the courts. And that’s something that, look that issue of reasonable accommodations, and undue burden is something that has gone back and forth to legislators.
And that is, Mr. Tarver, maybe he can join us in a moment. The second part of that question is, you mentioned the DOJ, the Department of Justice, and maybe there was some other department within the United States that could effectively address this issue that I understand that correctly. Yes, the Department of Health, DHS department, the Department of Health and Human Services, I believe, is an organization that is capable of coming up with some of the policies pursuing some of the remedies that we’re considering. But I believe that as long as this issue remains a policing issue, or I’ll say this, if you might allow me to back up a bit, this crisis policing was started by federal policy, the federal government, decided during the Nixon era that it would and became crystallized during the Reagan era. Two former US presidents, that there will be a war or a so-called war launched by the government on drugs, and that the purveyors of at war, the soldiers of that war would be American police. And so if there was any behavior that seemed to indicate that someone was under the influence of drugs, or in the traffic of drugs, or in the consumption of drugs, then the American police were the appropriate body to respond to these drug users. Because individuals who suffer mental health crisis often exhibited signs that make it make it appear that there are they’re on drugs, or reasonably are on drugs, either prescribed or self medicating because of their condition.
You see this so called war on drugs, which which would really play out as a war on those suffering from addiction, a war on those in high drug areas, a war on those, a war on the poor, a war on those who are caught up in the traffic of drugs as well. I don’t believe — I think as a national policy, because it was, in fact, federal policy that started this war, there must be a federal policy designed specifically to dismantle the militarized response to this health crisis. And so instead of investing so much of our federal funds into the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and other militarized groups, that we should be pouring money into the DHS Department of Health and Safety, in discovering actually effective remedies, maybe from some of our neighboring countries, who actually have also dealt with drug issues. We have seen that happen recently as it relates in the United States to a population that is mostly white. When when the white population in America was manifesting issues in their communities of struggling with drugs and addiction. They didn’t get a new militarized group and national policy of a war on that community, instead it was termed an opioid crisis, properly designated as a health concern, and they received health resources to meet that need. I believe that’s what we need in this situation as well.
Hina Jilani 42:37
Ria Julien 42:40
We have five minutes remaining in the hearing.
Niloufer Bhagwat 42:46
I would like to address one more question to Attorney Merritt. Can you hear me?
Lee Merritt 42:57
I can, yes, Your Honor. Commissioner Bhagwat, I can hear you
Niloufer Bhagwat 43:03
Considering the complexity of the issue with different jurisdictions. You have correctly clarified to us that it is Congress, which must intervene and get their act together. What it appears is that as far as the African American community situation is nothing less than a Protection Act will be required to protect the African American community against the level of brutality to which they are being subjected. In my country, we had to pass a special act to ensure that no atrocities will be committed on the scheduled caste, who were considered as untouchables over centuries of exploitation and it is that at which to a certain extent, assisted us because unless you have an act of Congress, which ensures that there is correction of every aspect of this problem. There will be no no, there is no real remedy unless the police is held accountable under an act of Congress, with provisions for private complaint to be filed along with along with State prosecution and that this can be prosecuted in the federal and in the state court both. Would that be a way out? A special statute, apart from the mental health issue is also an issue of the Department of Health, as correctly pointed out by my colleague commissioner Jilani, of protection of people of African, of African descent against police brutality and violence. Making the police force accountable for both civil accountability and criminal accountability. And providing for the prosecution. Clarifying this entire issue of the use of unjustified violence, unless you have a special status with liability and accountability on the police force. And I understand that the police forces are federally funded, is that correct?
Lee Merritt 46:16
There’s a Byrne grant, was called a Byrne grant, where most states received a significant amount of federal funds for the policing agencies, but it’s also based on the local taxes and funded both by the state and the federal.
Niloufer Bhagwat 46:31
If the federal agencies are funding and there needs to be a special action especially. Because as we have, as we wait when we deal with the, with the case from Ferguson, we will be addressing this issue, because we have got document to the effect that the United States government has filed a complaint saying they’ve exhausted all administrative measures. But this position, the county refuses to be accountable administratively and therefore they have had to file a complaint in the district court. This is a state of affairs you must be aware of.
Lee Merritt 47:19
Yes, yes, your honor.
Charlotte Kates 47:22
Excuse me, my apologies, Mr. Merritt and Professor Bhagwat. And Ms. Julien, I did want to let all of you know that Mr. Tarver is online if you would like to hear from him before the end of the hearing. Thank you so much.
Lee Merritt 47:34
This is the father, as you all know, of Darius Tarver. He is a member of the McKinney police department where he has served as a chaplain, and his son was aspiring to become a law enforcement officer. So Mr. Tarver, we mentioned this, Darius, to this distinguished panel, we would love to hear from you directly. Commissioner Bhagwat, in response to what you what you just said, I know we’re out of time. Yes, I agree that that there needs to be accountability. And the accountability should be ascertained by congressional lawmakers. Without accountability, in addition to change, there will be no justice. mystery. Thank you for joining us. Thank you. Mr. Tarver. We’re we’re nearing the end. And so if you wanted to add on, I know you’ve been listening in on the end of the conversation and Commissioner Bhagwat’s discussion, if you have anything, sort of in a brief response, we’d love to hear from you. And there’s a potential that we’ll call you, that I will be asked to get back before the commission, I will ask you to join me as witness at that time.
Kevin Tarver 48:43
You know, I’m sorry, I had some things going on. So I’m late, but just the fact that, you know, my son, you know, mental crisis is a big issue in America. And, and because of his suffering ,mental crisis, and the lack of the officers actually utilizing de escalation and utilizing what they were supposed to be trained. They said what they were trained to do, you know, after, you know, they had actually murdered my son, but none of those things actually were actually used , no de escalation, no distance, no time, no cover, but they said that they did everything and, you know, they have plenty of opportunities to actually save his life and, and anybody that’s well trained, you know, he came down and he cried out to God, he came down he stood still, he was no imminent threat, but yet they took his life. And these are things that that we go through and I’m just kind of skipping into the detail but, but the thing is, is that when they know that they done wrong, and even at the end, you know, they talk more about the stitches in his face and trying to save his life. You know, it’s just, it was just appalling just to see this happen, but they said they were well trained. So if that’s well trained, you know, then they’re only trained to kill them. And that’s a problem in America because for Black men to call 911 in the middle of crisis, that’s a death sentence. And that shouldn’t be so.
Niloufer Bhagwat 50:23
Mr. Tarver, I would like to ask you a question.
Lee Merritt 50:29
Each of these officers and incidents were held out as well trained officers is all I want to say.
Niloufer Bhagwat 50:35
I just want to ask the Father, Mr. Tarver, a question. Is private mental health counseling, and assistance facilitis affordable for the African American community?
Kevin Tarver 50:54
The thing is, is it’s not even the affordability, sometimes they don’t even exist. Because especially in Texas, is one of the worst states when it comes to mental health. And it’s a problem all across the country, even with the police departments, if a person is in the mental crisis, then they don’t even have beds or facilities to put them in. Police departments hold them for 48 hours and release them. So that’s, that’s, that’s not helping.
Niloufer Bhagwat 51:23
I’m in terms of accessing private health, mental health counseling, psychological counseling, is that affordable to the African American? Private?
Kevin Tarver 51:40
I wouldn’t necessarily say, you know, that goes into a whole nother thing, and being able to have the insurance that covers it, and most insurances don’t cover mental health. So, you know, so I wouldn’t say it was affordable, and then there’s no institutions for, you know, people that’s having a mental crisis, and some don’t even know they’re in it to even get the help. So that’s a problem. And it’s not affordable.
Lee Merritt 52:04
Commissioner Bhagwat, one short answer your question is No. Insurance companies are not required to cover mental health services. Most, most Americans particularly Bllack Americans would pay for such services through their health insurance, and it’s generally not covered if it exists at all. And of course, if you’re Black in America, you’re more likely to be uninsured or underinsured, for instance, like
Niloufer Bhagwat 52:27
So it’s an it’s an issue of race, not just class and economic, economic inequality. Entire question is not only race and class, and economic deprivation which African American communities suffering from, though they have contributed to capital accumulation of the United States of America from the very beginning. That was what it was about that was what slavery was about capital activities? There are no reparations.
Niloufer Bhagwat 53:10
One last one last question quickly.
Ria Julien 53:16
Commissioner, we have gone over by five minutes if I could, if you don’t mind. Thank you all for appearing today before the commissioners Thank you especially to the family members of the victims, to Ms. Daniels to Brendan Daniels and to Kevin Tarver. This concludes the hearing of the case of de the cases of Damian Daniels, and Darius Tarver. Thank you also to attorney Lee Merritt for presenting both of those cases. We will now have a short break and hearings will resume on the hour with the case of Richie Harbison. Thank you.