Police in Barstow, Calif. shot and killed a young father of three in a Walmart parking lot, and injured a woman as dozens of bullets were fired into a car that the victim was driving, The Guardian reports. Diante “Butchie” Yarber, 26, was unarmed when he was killed, and while authorities claim that he was “wanted for questioning over an allegedly stolen vehicle and “accelerated” towards officers, his family says he was the victim of unjustified deadly force.
According to a news release from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, the April 5 incident unfolded when officers responded to “a call of a suspicious vehicle” in the Walmart parking lot. In the release, the Barstow Police Officers are listed as the “victim,” while Yarber is listed as a “suspect.”
“Officers believed the driver was a subject wanted for questioning in a recent crime involving a stolen vehicle,” reads the news release. “Officers attempted a traffic stop of the Mustang when the driver suddenly reversed the vehicle and struck one of the patrol cars. When the driver again accelerated toward the officers and struck a second patrol car, the officer involved shooting occurred. Two of the four occupants were struck by gunfire.
“The driver was pronounced deceased at the scene. A female passenger suffered gunshot wounds and was airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center,” the report continues. “The two male passengers exited the vehicle during the incident and one of them sustained minor injuries to his lower extremities in the process. Both injured passengers are expected to recover from their injuries.”
As has been the case with many black victims of police shootings, Yarber’s past criminal record has been brought to surface as if to somehow justify the shooting. However, Brittany Chandler, mother of Yarber’s 19-month-old daughter maintains that police “took him away for no reason,” and that officers should be held accountable for his death. “They are sick people for them to be able to shoot someone down in broad daylight,” she said.
Yarber’s older sister, Ruby Hawkins, said that local police constantly harassed her brother. “They are the biggest criminals,” she said. “They are bullies with badges … I don’t know how you can fear for your life with a person that is moving away from you.”
“You see this all the time, but you never in a million years think you’ll be the one crying about a loved one killed at the hands of police,” Hawkins added.
Yarber’s aunt, Aleta Yarber, confirmed that the vehicle in question belonged to her son and had not been reported stolen. She also said that her son hasn’t been able to talk much about the shooting because he’s traumatized.
“They saw a car full of black people sitting in front of a Walmart, and they decided that was suspicious,” said Lee Merritt, an attorney for the family. “They just began pouring bullets … It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s mind-boggling, the use of force.”
A crowdfunding page launched to raise money for Yarber’s three young daughter says that he “maneuvered his car around the police vehicles” after being profiled and boxed in by cops “without reasonable suspicion” for stopping him. “Video footage of his car reversing slowly away from law enforcement was captured by a a pedestrian, just before officers began to shoot into the vehicle,” the statement reads.
Yarber is the latest black California man gunned down by police whose story has drawn national attention, after the shooting death of Stephon Clark a 22-year-old father of two who was unarmed when he was shot to death in his grandmother’s backyard in March.
Earlier in the month, California legislators introduced a bill that would bar police officers from using deadly force unless absolutely necessary. The measure has been widely rejected by police chiefs in the state.
In the video below, police can be heard unloading several rounds into the vehicle that Yarber was driving.