An unarmed Black man was fatally shot by California police officers in a Walmart parking lot, leaving questions about why the responding cops fired at his vehicle as many as 30 times.
Diante Yarber, a 26-year-old father of three, was in the car with his cousin and friends at a Walmart when police in Barstow, California responded to a call about a “suspicious vehicle" in early April.
According to a press release by the Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, Yarber apparently reversed his car and struck one of the patrol cars as they attempted to conduct a traffic stop. The police officers then opened fire when he struck another vehicle and accelerated towards the police, Vox reports.
Yarber was pronounced dead at the scene. He was struck about two dozen times, according to Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Yarber’s family,
Two of the other passengers, a man and woman, were injured. Another passenger was not hurt in the incident.
Police say that Yarber was wanted for questioning in relation to another case involving a stolen vehicle. But the family has disputed that claim, saying that the car he was in at the time of his death was never reported stolen.
“They saw a car full of Black people sitting in front of a Walmart, and they decided that was suspicious,” Merritt told the Guardian. “They just began pouring bullets. … It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s mind-boggling, the use of force.”
Merritt also took to Facebook on Tuesday to give a different version of events from the police:
“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.”
The officers involved in the shooting are currently on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. Merritt is demanding the release of body and dash cam footage, as well as surveillance video.