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Body cam video sheds light on traffic stop where police test child's ashes for meth
This is a screenshot of the body camera footage from an incident in Springfield on April 6, 2020 involving Dartavius Barnes. During the search, Barnes says officers took a sealed urn of his daughter's ashes, unsealed it, opened it without consent, and spilled out the ashes. (Springfield Police Department)

Newschannel 20 and FOX Illinois obtained new body camera video of the incident sparking Dartavius Barnes to sue the City of Springfield.

In the suit, Barnes claims his vehicle was unlawfully searched on April 6, 2020 when he was pulled over near Laurel and 16th Streets in Springfield.

He says officers placed him in handcuffs while they searched his vehicle without consent, valid warrant, or probable cause.

During the search, Barnes says officers took a sealed urn of his daughter's ashes, unsealed it, opened it without consent, and spilled out the ashes.

Dartavius Barnes is the biological father of Ta'Naja Barnes, the 2-year-old found unresponsive in her Decatur home in 2019.

She was later pronounced dead at a hospital in Decatur.

Ta'Naja's mother and her mother's boyfriend would go on to be arrested on murder charges in her death.

RELATED: Ta'Naja's father claims Springfield Police desecrated, spilled her ashes

Barnes filed the lawsuit in October.

The body camera footage sheds new light on the moments police spend with the bullet-shaped urn.

"Please give me my daughter, put her in my hand," Barnes pleaded with officers when he discovered they had the urn.

WICS

According to incident reports, Barnes was pulled over for speeding through an area following reported gunfire.

Barnes was handcuffed and detained.

While one officer investigated the shots fired, walking up and down the block, another searches Barnes' car with his permission.

"You got anything in your car?" an officer asks.

Barnes responded "Not really," before admitting he had marijuana.

"No problem if I search?" the officer asks Barnes.

"Yeah, go ahead," Barnes responded.

According to the report, they found an illegal amount of marijuana and what they thought was ecstasy or meth.

An officer presented the officer whose body camera was rolling with a narcotics test kit.

"I checked for cocaine, but it looks like it's probably molly," the officer said.

"X pills," the other added, citing the street name for ecstasy.

That container the officer is holding, we soon find out, is Ta'Naja's urn.

The officer wrapped the container in his plastic glove and it was placed with other evidence.

In the incident report, an officer wrote, "I have seen similar items like this before utilized to contain narcotics."

An officer went to tell Barnes the container tested positive for meth or ecstasy.

Barnes appeared confused and asked to see what they found.

The officer retrieved the container, wrapped in the plastic glove, and when it was shown to Barnes, the reaction was immediate.

Barnes yelled, "No, that's my daughter," and tried to reach for the urn.

The officer closed the door and turned to other officers at the scene.

"This is his daughter's ashes that Reibeling thought tested positive for meth," the officer said.

Officers went to test the contents again, but then decided they believed him.

Police gave the urn to Barnes' father, who was waiting up the street.

After 21 minutes in the back of the police car, Barnes was released and given a notice to appear.

Back in the police car, two officers had this exchange:

"I'm just gonna give him a notice to appear on the weed," one said.

"OK, aside from pissing off dad and testing the dead baby ashes," the other responded.

In their response to the suit, officers said they're "entitled to qualified immunity as their conduct was justified by an objectively reasonable belief that it was lawful."

You can read the full response here:

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The City of Springfield said they do not have comment on this pending legal matter.

We reached out to Barnes' legal team as well, but had not heard back with comment at the time of publishing.

The full body camera video can be found below in two parts.


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