Yet another Black man is dead after witnesses say California police fired what sounded like 30 bullets into a packed car in a Walmart parking lot just outside Los Angeles.
Diante “Butchie” Yarber, 26, was fatally shot by Barstow police as he drove his cousins and their friends to a local Walmart on the morning of April 5. The father of two was believed to be unarmed, according to The Guardian.
“They saw a car full of Black people sitting in front of a Walmart, and they decided that was suspicious,” attorney Lee Merritt, who’s representing the Yarber family, told the newspaper. “They just began pouring bullets … It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s mind-boggling, the use of force.”
Yarber was reportedly “wanted for questioning” in a stolen car case and authorities claim he “accelerated” toward them when they tried to stop him. The young man was struck at least “two dozen times,” according to Merritt. The deadly shooting comes just weeks after police gunned down Sacramento man Stephon Clark, 22, who they suspected of breaking into cars. Clark was also unarmed.
News of Yarber’s death hasn’t sparked massive rallies just yet, but it’s the latest incident to shed light on police use of excessive lethal force against African-Americans.
In a statement, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Barstow officers opened fire after the driver of a Black Mustang suddenly reversed, struck a patrol car and then accelerated toward them. The officers were reportedly sent to the Walmart to investigate “a suspicious vehicle” and were attempting a traffic stop. Video filmed by a witness captured the sound of several bullets being fired in rapid succession, as one or more officers took shots at the car, The Guardian reported.
The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, according to a police spokeswoman.
Dale Galipo, an attorney representing Marian Tafoya, 23, a passenger who was severely wounded in the shooting, said so far, the investigation shows Yarber was unarmed and that officers weren’t in the path of his car. Therefore, they should’ve never discharged their weapons.
Yarber’s aunt, Aleta Yarber, also pointed out that the car Yarber was driving belonged to her son and was never reported stolen. She said she has since retrieved the car but did not see any visible damage that proved it had been rammed into a police vehicle. Aleta Yarber said her son was also in the car at the time of the shooting, but the bullets missed him.
Samantha Robledo, who shares a 7-year-old daughter with Yarber, used kind words to describe her child’s father and said she felt the police have tried to smear his character as a way to justify his killing.
“He would always make you smile, no matter what,” Robledo told The Guardian. ” … You couldn’t be angry around him. He was so loving and friendly, and that’s what we’re going to miss the most.”