“What 420 Means to Me” by Tanya DeCant

The following post was written by the victim’s sister, Tanya DeCant, who worked up the courage to write about a police officer who wrongly took her brothers life.

by Tanya DeCant

Well, I know what most people equate to the term “420”, and my little brother, Donny, was no different. He had a core group of loyal friends who liked to get together and “party” yet really caused no trouble. They may have stayed up a bit late and made a little bit of noise now and then, but basically just kids (Donny was 19) who were trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

Well, one of Donny’s friends was about to become a dad. He knew when the baby was coming as a c-section had been scheduled. So, on April 19th he wanted to have a diaper party. This is like a shower, but for the guys. Donny was apprehensive about having the party at his house as he was just starting to look at his future and maybe try to get his shit together, and maybe cut back on the partying a bit. However, Donny’s house, which he shared with our father, was the perfect place as it was where they had congregated so many times before. He reluctantly agreed.

Now, my dad had a drinking habit. He still got up and went to work everyday, but after work he would usually drink until he passed out. He felt comfortable with Donny’s friends and had no objection to the diaper party. He drank a lot that night and went to his room and fell asleep – he was out cold.

Meanwhile, as more people were arriving, a guest came upon a gun in the drawer of an old cash register they had at the house. My dad collected guns and they were all over the house. Donny noticed this and immediately took the gun to avoid any problems, and placed it in his pants. He had pretty much forgotten about it as the night winded down and he was chilling in his bedroom with three other people upstairs.

Downstairs there were maybe 10 people still hanging out. So, when the police showed up at about 1:00 a.m. to answer a call about loud noise any of those people can tell you that the an officer walked right in the back door uninvited. At this point there are conflicting stories.

The police account: The police say they spoke to Donny just inside the backdoor in the kitchen where they asked him for I.D. Donny stated he didn’t have any and he would go upstairs to get it at which point they told him not to, but he ran away upstairs. One officer, Taylor, pursued him up the stairs with his gun drawn. Donny had retreated behind his closed bedroom door. Officer Taylor kicked in the door to see Donny pointing a gun at him, so he was forced to shoot. He hit him once in the chest.

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The three people in the bedroom had this account in their separately obtained statements: Donny never was downstairs. In hearing people downstairs saying the police were there, Donny walked down the hallway to the top of the stairs where he heard there were in fact police in the house. Remembering the gun in his pants he immediately returned to his room to stash it. He was intoxicated and stoned. He was moving slowly. He went to the side wall where his bed was in the corner and bent down with his back to the bedroom door. He lifted the mattress with one hand and took the gun out of his pants to place it under the mattress when the bedroom door was kicked in. It was a very loud noise which caused Donny to turn and look over his shoulder when he was instantly shot in his heart with a hollow-point bullet.

The other people in the room were in complete shock. They were taken down with the other guests and all were taken to the police department to give statements. My dad was yanked out of bed and dragged downstairs where he was placed on the couch in the living room. He was very confused and groggy and kept asking “What the hell happened?” He was ignored. At that point they brought Donny’s body down on a cart and wheeled him past my dad who asked “Is he dead?” They didn’t respond.

My dad was also taken to the police department where he was asked questions and unable to go to the hospital. Donny was pronounced dead pretty soon after his arrival. A friend of mine who is a nurse, not involved with this case, explained that they have to try everything to revive someone before they are pronounced dead, so he probably was dead very soon after being shot. The police held the ambulance up as they had the road blocked with all the cars to take the witnesses away. There was nothing that could be done for Donny.

My dad called my other brother, Nick. Since it was the middle of the night he got his answering machine. Nick called me soon after. I woke up and answered the phone. Nick said, “I don’t know what’s going on but I got a message from Dad saying that Donny was shot and killed.” It took me a second to realize what he said. Killed. Killed. I just fell back to the wall and slid down to my bottom crying and saying “No. No. No. No. No. No.” My husband took the phone from me and I don’t remember much more of the next week or so.

We flew to Toledo for the funeral. I barely remember it. I started smoking again. I cried a lot. I had a constant headache. I was numb.

When I first heard that Donny was shot by a policeman because he had a gun, I originally felt bad for the cop. I thought how horrible it must be to have to shoot a kid. I wondered why Donny had the gun and what had gone down. I knew he wasn’t violent, so I was looking for answers. I didn’t read them myself but was told by others that the statements given to police all matched. The party guests all said one thing and the 2 cops both said another. So, there would be an investigation.

It didn’t take long for the Firearms Review Board to clear the officer who shot Donny of any wrongdoing. The shooting was officially justified. He had a gun, after all.

Only later, did we discover from the coroner that the bullet had entered Donny’s body in such a way that made it apparent he had had his back to the officer with both of his arms down at his sides. He was slightly turned so the bullet went in his chest at an angle. But, no question he was not facing the officer with the gun pointed at him as the officer had stated.

Another problem with the officer’s account was why he was in the house to begin with. A neighbor said he was in the driveway outside talking to the shooter’s partner when they heard the gunshot and the partner ran inside. But, the officer states they were both in the house. When Taylor explained why he was in the house he claimed that his partner was already in there so he assumed permission. And the Ohio State Supreme Court has no problem with that explanation. I guess if one enters a residence illegally, then all are welcome to follow.

Moving on to the fact that you cannot sue a law enforcement officer in Ohio if the alleged wrong occurred while he was conducting official duty. Qualified immunity. We cannot have police afraid to act, or think too long before they act, because they are afraid they may be sued – so let’s just remove the possibility of them being sued. Makes sense.

So, in my biased summary, a cop (at least in Ohio) can walk into your house uninvited – which then opens the door for any other cops who wish to enter to come on in – and he can kick in your bedroom door and murder you because you are holding a gun – a legal gun – in your hand in your own bedroom in your own private residence.

I do not any longer feel that Officer Taylor had to shoot my brother. From what other people in the room stated, he may not have even seen Donny’s gun until after he shot him. I believe he busted in like that in an attempt to catch him with something (drugs, alcohol, etc.) and when he saw 4 people in there and Donny hunched over possibly stashing or retrieving something he fired out of panic. He had no idea what was happening and he should not have gone in there like that. He stated he wasn’t even aware of other people in the room. He broke his own department policies. But, bonus – kid had a gun so he’s off the hook.

Why is my brother dead? Well, many people will tell you he brought it on himself. He smoked pot, drank alcohol, and had parties and if he didn’t the cops would not have even been there. I say it’s a mixture of reasons:

1. Loud noise complaint called in by a neighbor who disliked my brother when there was no actual noise according to neighbors on both sides of the house who were awake.

2. Police illegally entering the residence

3. Officer Taylor having his gun drawn at a loud noise complaint

4. Officer Taylor kicking in a door not knowing what was on the other side against his department policies

5. The use of hollow-point bullets by police that were actually created to do more damage and save soldiers ammo

6. A mentality by society that says my brother was some type of criminal lowlife that deserved what happened to him

After the funeral we donated money in lieu of flowers to the October 22nd Coalition To Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.

My dad committed suicide.

My mom died of breast cancer.

Every time my brother, my sister, or I see a police officer we get a little nervous and remember all that was stolen from us.

So, yeah it’s 4/20. It takes me back to April 20th, 2002, when my youngest brother, Donald Joseph Sargent, was murdered by Toledo Police and nobody seemed to care. I hope you will remember him today, too.

Do you have a police story you want to share with CB.org readers? If so, contact us here.


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Ademo Freeman

was born and raised in Wisconsin, traveled the country in a RV dubbed “MARV” and is an advocate of a voluntary society, where force is replaced with voluntary interactions. He’s partaken in projects such as, Motorhome Diaries, Liberty on Tour, Free Keene, Free Talk Live and is the Founder of CopBlock.org.

If you enjoy my work at CopBlock.org, please, consider donating $1/month to the CopBlock Network or purchasing CopBlock.org Gear from the store.

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  • b.dukes

    Police don’t think they can do whatever they want, they know it. The courts will always side with law enforcement, even if evidence is stacked against them. I’m truly sorry for the loss of your brother, and he will indeed be in my thoughts throughout today. Thank you for sharing this, I can only imagine how hard it is to re-live this tragedy.

  • Chris

    This was a very moving article. Thank you for having the courage to speak what you are and assumable are still feeling. I’m deeply sorry for you loss and I hope that some justice has been served in some form or another.

  • Miko the Psycho

    Sounds like there was no justice whatsoever. If you cannot get justice through the appropriate, legal channels, then it stands to reason you should try for justice by extralegal means. I condone it in this situation. You’re justified in taking your issue ‘ad hominem’, to Office Taylor.

  • Paula Parmeley Carter

    Thank you Tanya for sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss. I will think of your brother and your family often, especially when I need reminded of what is at stake in the fight for police accountability.

  • PJ

    Don’t expect relief from the system. It is not here for us. The only recourse is outside the system.

    If it helps, I look at tyrannical government as just another force of nature, like a tornado or lightning. Your brother was killed by a force of nature. One does what one can to protect against it, but it can happen any time to anyone.

    FYI, hollowpoint bullets are standard issue to all police and are universally recommended for self defense too. There is nothing special about them. The problem is that the shooting took place, and that a home invasion by cops took place, not that certain cartridges were used.

  • Stephanie

    Tanya, I know there are no words that can possibly take away the pain you experienced, but I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing about this. Because you are speaking out, tragedies like the one that happened to Donny will be prevented from happening in the future. He is not forgotten.

  • Guy Fawkes

    I hope that squealing rat that called the cops on your brother and lied about the noise to get them there feels some responsibility. What an incredible douche bag. Someone should throw him a blanket party, like the one they had in the movie Full Metal Jacket. You always hear “keep you doors locked” so as to keep criminals out, who would think you also need to do that to keep psycho cops from illegally entering your home? Cops get more like Nazi’s every day.

  • o. g .

    most cops are nazis especially sheriffs remember when they were like out in the country instead of on every cops murder all the time and get away with it so sorry about your loss

  • o. g .

    west hollywood sheriffs are pretty cool though but their about the only ones

  • Pingback: A Tough Ol’ Broad « Thick Skin Required()

  • nicole

    I am sorry for your loss. Hun i am bff with crystal bickel and i know that day still effects her now! I dont think shes never been the same such a sad day for some many all caused by people who were sopost to protect!!!and instead are the stealers of a inocent life! Destroyers off many others!! 4/20 means remembering for me!!!

  • Billy

    I grew up with donny we met in the 5th grade. I had just moved to a new school and he was my first real friend. There were about 6 of us that became really good friends that year. We kept a tight circle. We were always together having fun playing sports video games riding bikes. Yes we did party but it was in fun. We didn’t go out looking for trouble or causing it. We would catch a lil buzz and fuck around like most teens. Since the night that Donny was murdered the bond between all of us has been broken. Donny was our core he brought it all together. As I sit here today I celebrate Donnys life and wonder how our lives would be different if his wasn’t stolen. Donny I miss you bro. See you when I get there.

  • Codie Fraley

    I remember being in 2nd grade when this all happened. I didn’t fully understand it at the time but I was crushed seeing my father cry and seeing my uncle Craig like that. It was a horrible thing to happen, and I wish it never would have. Police are suppose to protect us, not this…

  • Jason

    This post brought me to tears every time I have read it, I was good friends with your brother and was there earlier that night. He was a great friend to me and a truly great person. He is still truly missed!

  • I’m so sorry for your loss
    Cops are out of control and need a rude awakining,
    Someday people are gonna start shooting back at people who think because they are cops,they can break the law and get away with it.
    You come through my door uninvited,I don’t give a dam who you are it will be shoot first,ask questions later.sorry,prayers first then anger,RIP Donnie

  • manda

    I just out of the blue came across this article bc I was curious to what ever happened to Mr. Asshole officer Taylor. This made me cry. I was there the night this happened and was stuck in the bathroom with a few others.a lady cop kicked the door in with her gun drawn. The cops did not belong there. The only noise coming from the house was maybe a few ppl being a little loud & a small boombox stuck in donnys bedroom window. The officers treated us as criminals & sat us all in the living room while officer jack fuck paced back and forth screaming at us like he was Hitler. Bob sat next to me asking what happened crying histerically I didn’t know what to tell him.. I also stopped by the house the night bob committed suicide. Im so sad for this situation and I believe that this was Completely brushed aside as if Donny did something wrong.I had the pleasure of knowing your brother and every time we hung out I had a great time. He was very talented & inspiring. A young gifted man lost his life to some ignorant asshole who was never even punished. It just makes me sick. I’m so sorry for all of your pain & losses.Donny and Bob were one of a kind..

  • uther4

    about 90 percent of all cops are in obamas pocket and are crooks

  • Ben Standard

    And the same be said of a republican presidential puppet.