Earlier this month, police officers in Barstow, California, fatally shot a 26-year-old African-American man in the parking lot of Walmart while he was sitting inside his car.
Tragically, this case of apparent police brutality did not draw much attention and went mostly unnoticed, like a number of other deaths at the hands of police every year — despite the fact that cops shot at the car 30 times even though there were at least three other people present in the vehicle besides the victim.
Diante Yarber, known among his friends as Butchie, was a father of three daughters. He reportedly died protecting his friends sitting in the backseat, according to writer and civil rights activist Shaun King, who highlighted the tragic incident on his social media accounts.
“On the day he was killed, Diante was giving a friend a ride to Walmart. That's it. That is what got him killed. Looking suspicious while waiting for a friend to finish shopping,” King wrote. “Without warning or provocation two or three squad cars pinned Diante and his passengers into a parking space. Not knowing what to think, Diante made the mistake of trying to drive away. He reversed slowly out of his parked position and police open fire on the vehicle filled with occupants.”
Two of Yarber’s friends, Mariana and Shad, along with his cousin Wesley, were also reportedly present in the car at the time of the shooting. Two of them suffered gun shot wounds while one was detained by the police.
The fatal shooting took place on April 5. According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the officers were reportedly responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle in a Walmart parking lot when they saw a black Mustang. In a news release, the authorities said the driver was believed to be “wanted for questioning” in connection with “a recent crime involving a stolen vehicle.”
The department said “the driver suddenly reversed the vehicle and struck one of the patrol cars” when police tried to conduct a traffic stop. It also claimed the car accelerated toward the officers and struck a second police vehicle, prompting the officers to open fire.
RED ALERT.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) April 16, 2018
I need you to know the name #ButchieYarber.
One of the most upbeat, funny, beloved young brothers you could ever know.
Brutally murdered in broad daylight in the parking lot of @Walmart by police in Barstow, California.
Shot at 30 times.
Unarmed, non-violent. pic.twitter.com/bkMHJWijyd
However, the video captured by one of the witnesses showed something completely different.
“Barstow Police Department unloaded thirty rounds of ammunition into a car full of people. They claimed the car was speeding toward a police officer and they had no other choice. That was a lie,” King explained in his post. “Video captured by a pedestrian shows the car slowly rolling away from law enforcement with no one in its path. Cops claimed the car rammed a squad car. If you watch this video closely you can see a police vehicle pull into the cars path. The force used here was completely unnecessary. The cover up and the lies are transparent. This was murder.”
While King said civil rights attorney Lee Merritt is currently representing Yarber’s daughters and leading an investigation into the shooting, it is yet unclear if Yarber was in fact the man police officers thought he was before they opened fire.
The brutal killing prompted a number of residents to take to the streets to demand justice for Yarber, but they barely made the headlines.
“We are here to say, ‘Stop killing us!’” said Navy veteran and activist Wendy Jackson, addressing the Barstow Police Department during the protest. “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.”
This is #ButchieYarber : he was a son,a father, a citizen!He was murdered by the #police. 30 shots for doing nothing wrong in a parking lot in #Barstow, #California He is another victim of the genocide of Black People in the USA! #Blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/hxJ7cZNsmt— Anna R. (@Yndianna) April 16, 2018
As other demonstrators chanted “no justice, no peace,” Jackson compared the killings of Yarber and other African Americans to the arrest of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people in a Florida high school on the Valentine’s Day.
“How is it that a young black man shoplifting, or selling cigarettes, or supposedly in a stolen vehicle is shot and killed, yet a young man kills 17 people and is taken away alive?” she asked Jackson. “Cops are trained to handle situations, not just shoot and kill. They are not supposed to be the judge, jury and executioner. It’s hard to believe this can happen right here, in our town.”
As King pointed out in his post, police were quick to reveal his past criminal record — but does having a criminal past warrant death?
In 2017, police killed 1,129 people, of which 27 percent were African Americans, even though they make up just about 13 percent of the total U.S. population.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters