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'Stalked and murdered': Cops fired 30 shots at unarmed black man outside Walmart, attorney says

Diante Butchie Yarber, 26, was shot and killed by police in a Barstow, California, Walmart parking lot after police said he nearly hit him with their car. An attorney for Yarber’s family says he was murdered. This image reportedly showing the shooting was posted to Facebook.
Diante Butchie Yarber, 26, was shot and killed by police in a Barstow, California, Walmart parking lot after police said he nearly hit him with their car. An attorney for Yarber’s family says he was murdered. This image reportedly showing the shooting was posted to Facebook. Screenshot from Facebook

Screams and a flurry of shots — pop after pop after pop — can be heard in the shaky video.

It was recorded in a Barstow, California, Walmart parking lot on April 5 as police shot and killed Diante “Butchie” Yarber, 26 — a black man and a father of three, the Guardian reports. An attorney for Yarber’s family said Yarber was caught in a hail of 30 bullets, describing the scene as “an amount force that would have been deemed excessive in a war zone.”

Barstow police were called to the parking lot around 10 a.m. on reports of a “suspicious” black Mustang, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. Officers tried to stop the Mustang, hoping to question the driver, Yarber, in connection with a recently stolen vehicle, the Sheriff’s Office said.

But the Mustang suddenly reversed, striking a patrol car, and then drove toward officers and hit another patrol car, the Sheriff's Office said.

That’s when police said they opened fire on the vehicle, killing the driver and leaving a female passenger with gunshot injuries that required her to be hospitalized. Two other passengers got out of the Mustang as the incident unfolded, police said, one suffering minor injuries.

Yarber was pronounced dead at the scene, the Sheriff's Office said. Authorities described the incident in the news release as an assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and an officer-involved shooting, listing “Barstow police officers” as the victim.

Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Yarber’s family, told the Guardian that Yarber was unarmed and posed no threat.

“They saw a car full of black people sitting in front of a Walmart, and they decided that was suspicious,” Merritt told the newspaper. “They just began pouring bullets … It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s mind-boggling, the use of force.”

Merritt wrote on Facebook on Tuesday that Yarber was “profiled, stalked and murdered” by police. He also shared photos of Yarber and video from the scene, describing a version of events different from what police recounted.

“While waiting for one of his passengers to return from shopping at Walmart, Diante and his passengers were labeled ‘suspicious’ and targeted for harassment by (police),” Merritt wrote. “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.”

Merritt said police then fired more than 30 rifle rounds into the driver’s side door and through the windshield. He said Yarber was struck about two dozen times, while the female passenger was hit in the stomach and leg.

Merritt told the Guardian that the female passenger was put in a squad car as though she were a suspect before she was ultimately given medical attention.

Now Merritt is calling for the police department to hand over body and dash cam footage, as well as surveillance video. He said it’s “the worse case of excessive and unnecessary force” he’s ever seen, and urged the county’s district attorney to prosecute officers in the case “zealously.”

The shooting occurred just weeks after another unarmed black man — Stephon Clark, 22 — was shot and killed by police in Sacramento, California. That shooting triggered a wave of protests in California and across the country.

The Sacramento Police Department has released helicopter footage of the Stephon Clark shooting where officers fatally shot the unarmed black man who was holding his cellphone in his grandparents' backyard.

Relatives of Yarber told HuffPost that the vehicle he was in wasn’t stolen. The deceased's aunt, Aleta Yarber, said it was her son’s Mustang, adding that her son was in the vehicle when the shooting began. The son “has not been able to say much of anything” in the aftermath of the incident, she told HuffPost. “It was very traumatizing.”

Days after the shooting, about 100 protesters marched to the Barstow Police Department, the Victorville Daily Press reports. They wore T-shirts printed with photos of Yarber and raised signs that read: "Justice for Butchie."

And the demonstrators had a message for police.

“We are here to say, ‘Stop killing us!’” Wendy Jackson, an activist and Navy veteran, said outside the police department, according to the Daily Press. “Your job is to arrest us and bring us before the people. So we are saying, we want justice — we want justice and we want peace, but stop killing us in the streets.”

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