Father Suing Police After They ‘Desecrate’ Urn With Daughter’s Ashes To Search For Drugs

by : Emily Brown on : 13 Jun 2021 14:18
Father Suing Police After They 'Desecrate' Urn With Daughter's Ashes To Search For DrugsSpringfield Police Department

A father is suing an Illinois police department after officers opened an urn containing his daughter’s ashes and allegedly ‘desecrated’ it during a traffic stop. 

The incident took place in April 2020, when Dartavius Barnes of Springfield, Illinois was stopped for speeding and running a stop sign, according to a police report detailing the situation.


Barnes was asked to exit the car before being secured in handcuffs and placed in the backseat of the officer’s patrol car. Bodycam footage showed one of the officers asked for permission to search Barnes’ car before he is seen holding a sealed urn.

Dartavius Barnes in police car (WICS ABC NewsChannel 20/YouTube)WICS ABC NewsChannel 20/YouTube

In an incident report cited by CNN, the officer claimed that the brass object, which was shaped like a ‘rifle round’, was similar to other items he’d seen that had been ‘utilised to contain narcotics.’

Speaking to one of his colleagues, the officer said: ‘Then I checked for cocaine, but it looks like it’s probably molly.’


Police told Barnes they found a substance in his car which tested positive for drugs, but when they showed him the urn Barnes responded: ‘No, no, no, bro. That’s my daughter. What are y’all doing bro … give me that bro, that’s my daughter.’

The ‘rifle-round’ shaped object is reportedly a commonly used cremation urn necklace, and Barnes used it to hold the ashes of his deceased two-year-old daughter, Ta’Naja Barnes.

Officer showing urn to Barns (WICS ABC NewsChannel 20/YouTube)WICS ABC NewsChannel 20/YouTube

Following the incident, Barnes filed a lawsuit against the city and six officers in which he claims police violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and that they initially stopped his car without reasonable suspicion or probable cause that Barnes had committed a crime.


The suit, filed by Barnes’ attorney, James C. Pullos, further accuses the police department of violating Barnes’ Fourth Amendment rights of unlawful search and seizure of his vehicle without probable cause, a valid search warrant, or consent, and claims the officers acted intentionally and maliciously.

The officers are also accused of having ‘desecrated’ the daughter’s ashes when they spilled some during the search.

The city has denied Barnes’ claims and maintains that the city and its officers are protected by ‘qualified immunity as their conduct was justified by an objectively reasonable belief that it was lawful.’


A police incident report claims the officer who stopped Barnes had heard through department radio that the father was also a potential suspect from a nearby report of shots fired. His car had been shot in the passenger side, though the report stated that it is unknown whether Barnes was ‘a target of the shooter or was hit by the round.’

Barnes is seeking ‘compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial’, plus attorney’s fees, costs, and litigation expenses and any other ‘relief as the Court may deem just or equitable.’

A trial is set to take place in August 2022.

Featured Image Credit: Springfield Police Department


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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, Illinois, Police


  1. CNN

    A father is suing an Illinois police department for opening an urn containing the ashes of his daughter