A white police officer who was involved in the fatal shooting of a black man in a California Walmart parking lot had previously been charged with a hate crime but was allowed to keep his job, attorneys for the dead man have claimed.
Diante Yarber, 26, died when police fired more than 30 bullets at his car, which was carrying multiple passengers, on April 5 in a Walmart parking lot in Barstow.
At the time police said Yarber had reversed into a police car, then accelerated toward officers and hit a second police car, prompting officers to open fire.
Yarber, a father of three, was shot 10 times and died from choking on his own blood after police delayed getting him medical help, attorneys acting on his behalf claimed on Monday.
Diante Yarber, 26, died when police fired more than 30 bullets at his car, which was carrying multiple passengers, on April 5 in a Walmart parking lot in Barstow
The lawyer, S. Lee Merritt, has alleged that the officers involved used a racial slur before the shooting and also that one of the cops was convicted of a hate crime in 2010.
Police haven’t released the names of the officers involved and denied a request for body cam footage of the shooting.
Grainy cellphone footage of the shooting shows officers fired their weapons at least a couple dozen times but doesn’t capture the full incident.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the shooting, has said police officers responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle believed Yarber was wanted for a crime involving a stolen car.
Merritt has disputed the account of the shooting by police, saying that Yarber’s car was barely moving.
S. Lee Merritt, an attorney acting on the dead man’s behalf, claims the officers involved used a racial slur before the shooting and also that one cop was convicted of a hate crime in 2010
Nakia Little and Wess Yarber, siblings of Diante Yarber sob as their lawyers speak during a news conference in California on Monday
There were three others in the car with Yarber when police tried to stop him.
His girlfriend was shot in the leg and abdomen in the backseat, while Yarber’s brother jumped out of the car and his cousin wasn’t hit.
Merritt, who is planning on filing a civil rights lawsuit in the case this week, said an autopsy showed that Yarber died of asphyxiation and that had he been given medical treatment, he would have had a chance at surviving his wounds.
The autopsy was conducted by a private medical examiner at Merritt’s request. An autopsy by San Bernardino County authorities has not been released and it’s unclear whether it’s been finished.
Merritt said the private autopsy found that Yarber had wounds to his chest, back and arms and that he wasn’t given medical treatment for ‘a great deal of time.’
‘The injuries are consistent with defensive wounds … as he was shielding himself and trying to escape the onslaught of bullets,’ Merritt said.
Merritt did not respond to a message seeking a copy of the autopsy report.
Video, shot by a witness on their cellphone appeared to show Yarber’s black Mustang slowly reversing while gunfire rang out across the parking lot
Video of the incident, which was shot by a witness on their cellphone, captured the screams of shoppers as officers opened fire on the car back on April 5.
The footage appeared to show Yarber’s black Mustang slowly reversing while gunfire rang out across the parking lot.
While police have claimed that Yarber drove at officers in what they describe as an ‘assault’ on an officer, Dale Galipo, an attorney representing Yarber’s injured girlfriend, said the investigation into the shooting showed that no cops had been in the path of the car.
It also showed that Yarber had been unarmed at the time of the shooting.
‘These officers are opening fire into a car with other passengers and in a Walmart parking lot in broad daylight with people walking all over the place that could have also been struck,’ Galipo said.
‘It’s obviously a totally excessive shooting.’
Merritt previously told the Guardian: ‘They saw a car full of black people sitting in front of a Walmart, and they decided that was suspicious.
‘They just began pouring bullets… It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s mind-boggling, the use of force.’
San Bernardino county sheriff’s department say Yarber had tried to avoid police and had ‘accelerated’ towards officers which is when they opened fire at the car full of passengers, killing Yarber (pictured with his baby daughter)
Attorneys for Yarber’s family estimate that around 30 bullets were fired at the unarmed motorist (pictured is Yarber at home)
Merritt branded it ‘the worse case of excessive and unnecessary force’ he’s ever seen, adding on Facebook that Yarber was ‘profiled, stalked and murdered’ by police.
The attorney refutes the police’s version of events and says that the 26-year-old and his passengers had been waiting for another passenger to finish shopping at Walmart when they were labeled as ‘suspicious.’
‘When officers, lacking reasonable suspicion for stopping Yarber in the first place, attempted to box his vehicle in, Yarber maneuvered his car around the police vehicles.’
He added that the vehicle was not stolen but belonged to Yarber’s cousin, who had been in the car at the time.
Galipo added that police training dictates that officers should not fire at moving cars as there is a high risk of injuring others.
Aleta Yarber, Diante’s aunt, said that the car did not appear to show any damage that would substantiate the claims it had rammed into police vehicles, after she collected the vehicle following the shooting.
Yarber’s girlfriend, who is the mother of their 19-month-old daughter Leilani, was devastated by the loss.
Yarber’s girlfriend Brittany Chandler, (pictured with their child and Yarber) mom to their 19-month-old daughter Leilani, was devastated by the loss
Devastated family and friends paid tribute to the dedicated father Yarber who could ‘make you smile, no matter what’
‘The police took him away for no reason,’ Brittany Chandler told the Guardian. ‘The police should be held accountable for this. They are sick people for them to be able to shoot someone down in broad daylight.’
Merrit is now demanding the police hand over their body and dash cam footage, as well as surveillance footage from Walmart, while he called upon the local district attorney to prosecute officers involved in the shooting.
A police spokeswoman said the officers involved were on paid administrative leave but would not confirm how many were involved.
Family and legal representatives for the passengers in the car say they are traumatized and in shock from the shooting.
Meanwhile, friends and loved ones of Yarber have been left to cope with his loss.
‘It still doesn’t even feel real. I wish I could just wake up and it would be a dream,’ said Chandler, who added that her daughter would have to grow up without a father.
Samantha Robledo, who has a seven-year-old daughter with Yarber, said she too had been left to explain to her child while her father was gone.
She added that her daughter, Naliyah, says: ‘He’s my angel now.’
Robledo added that Yarber had been someone who would always manage to ‘make you smile, no matter what.’
‘You couldn’t be angry around him. He was so loving and friendly, and that’s what we’re going to miss the most.’