A California police department has released the names of four officers involved in an April shooting that left a black man dead — and one of the officers was fired years ago after being charged with committing a hate crime, records said.
That Barstow police officer, Jimmie Alfred Walker, faced hate crime and battery charges in 2010 after he was accused of using racial epithets against a man and assaulting the man and a woman when he was off duty, the Guardian reports. Walker, then 30, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of public fighting and drunkenness. Prosecutors dropped the battery and hate crime charges, records obtained by the Guardian said.
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Walker, who is white, was fired in the aftermath of the incident. But an arbiter later ruled that Walker had been wrongfully fired, the Victorville Daily Press reported in 2014. Walker was reinstated, and the city had to pay him $163,403 in back pay.
Now police have said Walker is one of the officers involved in the shooting that killed Diante Yarber, a 26-year-old black man and father of three, outside a Barstow Walmart on April 5 just before 11 a.m., according to police.
Police had been called about a “suspicious” black Mustang in the super center's parking lot, and when they demanded Yarber get out of the vehicle, he instead drove forwards and backwards, striking squad cars multiple times, a police report said.
That’s when four officers, fearing for their safety and the safety of others, opened fire on Yarber and the three passengers in the vehicle, according to the department.
Yarber was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. A female passenger in the car was hit in the stomach and leg.
Police said they had probable cause to arrest Yarber following a March 18 incident in which he was identified as a reckless driver who sped off when an officer tried to pull him over. The driver in that incident eventually jumped out of his car and escaped police on foot. Yarber had stolen the blue Hyundai he was driving that day, police said.
But a lawyer representing Yarber’s family said police had “profiled, stalked and murdered” the father of three, calling his death a “mind-boggling” use of force.
Lee Merritt, the attorney, wrote on Facebook that Yarber was caught in a hail of 30 bullets, describing police actions as “an amount force that would have been deemed excessive in a war zone.”
“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 on Facebook. “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.”
Marlon Hawkins, 41, was sitting in the car's front seat when the shooting began. Hawkins told The New York Times that police boxed the car in right after they arrived at Walmart. Amid shouting and gunfire, Hawkins jumped out of the car. He was taken to the hospital and only later found out Yarber had died.
“I was just devastated,” Hawkins told The New York Times. “It was just surreal. It was happening so fast, I couldn’t believe it. I was sick.”
In addition to Walker, the officers who shot at Yarber during the incident were identified as Jose Barrientos, Vincent Carrillo and Mathew Allen Helms, authorities told the Guardian.
“We are precluded by state law from providing or sharing any further information related to the personnel records of the involved officers,” Capt. Andrew Espinoza told the Victorville Daily Press.
Each officer used a duty sidearm and each was wearing an activated and recording department-issued body camera, police said.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies who responded to the Hesperia, California, fight that resulted in Walker's 2010 criminal charges said Walker used racial slurs against a 32-year-old man in deputies’ presence, the Los Angeles Times reported. Walker had been hired by the Barstow Police Department the year before the 2010 incident.
“The defendant pleaded guilty to fighting in a public place and being drunk in public,” San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Chris Lee told the newspaper. “He was sentenced to three years’ probation with conditions.”
Walker was ordered to donate $200 to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pay $150 into a victim restitution fund and stay away from his victim, the newspaper reported. He also had to attend 24 Narcotics Anonymous meetings, records said.
And eventually, Walker’s defense attorney asked that his probation be terminated early and charges be dropped, Lee told the newspaper: “Over our office’s objection in this particular case, the court granted the defense motions,” Lee said.
Yarber’s shooting death sparked protests in Barstow and beyond — and it came just weeks after another black man, 22-year-old Stephon Clark, was shot and killed by police in Sacramento, California.
Yarber's funeral was held April 27.