FORT WORTH, TX — Gun-wielding, black-suited law enforcers busted into a home with a battering ram, terrifying everyone inside and leaving one man dead. Newly released helmet-cam video of the incident shows in graphic detail how this violent no-knock raid produced yet another casualty in the vicious War on Drugs.
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The raid took place on May 16th, 2013. So-called “Zero Tolerance Officers” from the Fort Worth Police Department staged raid on a suspected “drug house” with the intent of rounding up and imprisoning people for getting high without government permission. Police sought and received permission from Tarrant County Magistrate Cheyenne Minick to break into the home with no warning in order to surprise everyone inside.
As the video shows, sometime after 3:35 p.m., men in helmets and black uniforms sprinted through the yard with shotguns and pistols already drawn. A cop with a large steel battering ram instantly went to the front door and smashed it in without hesitation. From a first-person perspective, the video shows cops running into the home, aggressively screaming and aiming guns.
In a video obtained by WFAA, an officer holding a shotgun literally sweeps his barrel past everyone he sees in the living room. First a large man sleeping on the couch, then a tiny female child dressed in blue, a woman in purple, and three men seated at a round table.
“When they came in, they had their weapons drawn like we were members of a drug cartel,” a woman who was in the house told the Star-Telegraph.
After sufficiently terrifying everyone with the surprise assault, officers proceeded to force everyone to lie face down on the floor in handcuffs.
Jermaine “DJ” Darden, 34, who had been startled awake by the intrusion, received particular attention from police. Darden, a large man who weighed over 300 pounds, was having physical difficulties after being forced to the ground with several officers on top of him. He was physically unable to breathe in that position due to his asthma condition, heart disease, and the weight of the police officers.
“They physically pulled him off the couch because, like I said, he was asleep,” explained his mother, Donna Randle, to CBS-DFW. “They pulled him off the couch and they tried to put him on his stomach. He can’t breathe on his stomach. He don’t even lie on the bed on his stomach.”
Officers characterized his futile struggle to breathe as being “met with resistance.” At least five officers piled on top of him, exacerbating his breathing problem.
Video also shows Mr. Darden being tasered at least twice — not because officers feared for their safety, but as a compliance tool. His body was painted with red laser dots, before a pop was heard as the sharp prongs of the device were thrust into his flesh. Sixteen seconds later, police jolted him again. Each jolt lasted for 5 seconds.
Witnesses said he was not resisting at all, only trying to breathe.
“He had his hands behind his back the whole time. But me and about five other people were hollering the whole time, ‘He cannot breathe like that. Please handcuff him on his side,'” said Randle. “But they ignored us and Tased him.”
Officers successfully handcuffed Mr. Darden, and eventually propped his limp body up into the sitting position. But he didn’t have long to live.
A witness, Cliff Crippen, said he saw paramedics bring Mr. Darden into the front yard to attempt to revive him.
“They were pounding on his chest and squeezing on an air bag,” said Crippen, 29. “I saw his arm fall limp and a police officer place it back on his chest, and I thought to myself, ‘He’s dead.’”
Crippen commented on the lack of urgency to reach the hospital: “They sat in the ambulance about 10 minutes before it moved. And then it rolled away, no lights, no sirens.”
Jermaine “DJ” Darden was pronounced dead at the hospital. He left behind a wife and 2 teenage sons. He was found him with nothing illegal in his possession.
It took months for the medical examiner to declare an official cause of death. While some expected the death to be a homicide, it was instead announced that Mr. Darden died of “natural causes.” No culpability was placed on the officers’ use of force or the multiple electrical shocks. Officially, it was just a coincidence that he died during the raid.
“No, he didn’t die of natural causes, because if that’s the case, he would have [already] been dead,” his mother said. “They gave him a heart attack. They put him into a heart attack.”
Presented with a dismissive explanation for Darden’s death, a grand jury predictably let off the sole unnamed police officer who was reviewed for criminal liability.
The rivers of blood spilled in such senseless situations provides us with the most compelling and personal reason to end the violent Drug War. None of this would have the chance to happen if the government wasn’t fixated on micromanaging people’s personal decisions, sending enforcers who are prepared to kill or be killed in the name of senseless prohibition laws. (See more Drug War casualties covered by Police State USA)
Watch the disturbing footage of the raid, courtesy of WFAA: