Police have shot and killed a 26-year-old black man in a packed car outside of a Walmart in what his family say was an overly aggressive police response that led to an unnecessary death.
Police in Barstow, California killed Diante Yarber, a father of three, earlier this month after attempting to stop the vehicle he was in. A report from Barstow police says that Mr Yarber was “wanted for questioning” in a stolen vehicle case, and that he struck two patrol cars before an officer opened fire.
Dozens of gunshots can be heard in a shaky video recorded by a witness of the shooting. Mr Yarber is said to have been unarmed at the time of the shooting, which also injured a young woman in the vehicle.
“The police took him away for no reason,” Brittany Chandler, the mother of one of Mr Yarber’s children, 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.”
Previous reports from the police and local media in March indicate that Mr Yarber had been sentenced to four years probation last year for child abuse or endangerment, and resisting or obstructing an officer, according to court records. He was also sentenced to more than a year in prison in August of 2011 for pointing a shotgun at a group of people, and then shooting overhead, other records show. Mr Yarber was taken into police custody in mid-March on felony charges for possessing a firearm, but managed to escape from custody at the time.
The shooting is the latest police involved shooting of black men to spark outrage locally and across the country after northern California police shot and killed Stephon Clark weeks ago. Mr Clark was standing in the backyard of his grandmother’s home when police, responding to a 911 call in the neighbourhood, shot him. He was reportedly holding only a cell phone.
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An attorney for the Yarber family said that the 26-year-old was not armed at the time, and that the car — which police contend rammed into a first patrol car while reversing, before “accelerating” into a second — posed no risk to officers.
“They saw a car full of black people sitting in front of a Walmart, and they decided that was suspicious,” Lee Merritt, the attorney, told the Guardian. “They just began pouring bullets. … It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s mind boggling, the use of force.”
Mr Merritt continued to say that he believed Mr Yarber was trying to shield the other occupants of the car when he was killed. The other victim, a 23-year-old woman, was initially taken into the back of a police car, but was later airlifted to receive medical attention.
Mr Yarber was reportedly driving the car of his cousin, and the vehicle had not been reported stolen.