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California Community Fights for Accountability After Police Kill Unarmed Black Man in Hail of Bullets

California Community Fights for Accountability After Police Kill Unarmed Black Man in Hail of Bullets

California Community Fights for Accountability After Police Kill Unarmed Black Man in Hail of Bullets
April 19
15:46 2018

BARSTOW, CALIFORNIA — A California community is drawing increasing attention to the police killing of Diante “Butchie” Yarber, a 26-year-old black father of three who was shot to death as he sat inside his car in the parking lot of a Barstow Walmart on April 5.

In dramatic video filmed of the incident, which occurred in broad daylight, police can be heard rapidly spraying dozens of rounds  – well over 30 – at the car Yarber was driving, killing the young father and wounding his friends. No firearms were found inside the vehicle.

According to journalist Shaun King, Yarber died because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His final act was to attempt to save his two friends and his cousin. King wrote:

[Diante] wasn’t in the car alone. His friend Mariana was in the back seat. His friend Shad was in the passenger seat. His cousin Wesley was in the back. 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 opened fire on the vehicle filled with occupants.

They shot Diante an estimated 15 times. They shot Mariana in the back seat in the stomach and leg. Diante died trying to shield his backseat passengers from the barrage of bullets.”

Diante Yarber was profiled, stalked and murdered by Barstow PD officers. While waiting for one of his passengers to…

Posted by Lee Merritt on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

As is typically the case, local and national media have failed to offer much coverage of the case, despite the wanton overuse of force by Yarber’s killers in the San Bernardino county sheriff’s department.

Family attorney Lee Merritt told The Guardian that police, having encountered a car full of black people in front of a Walmart automatically deemed suspicious, “just began spouting bullets … It’s mind-boggling, the use of force.”


Conflicting accounts

Brittany Chandler, the mother of Yarber’s 19-month-old daughter, will now have to raise her young daughter Leilani alone. She believes that if she had been in the driver’s seat, police “would’ve never drawn their guns” on her because she’s white.

Samantha Robledo, the mother of Yarber’s seven-year-old daughter, told The Guardian that he was a gentle person who shined with kindness:

He would always make you smile, no matter what … You couldn’t be angry around him. He was so loving and friendly, and that’s what we’re going to miss the most.”

San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies, however, paint a far grimmer picture of Yarber, alleging in a press release that he was “wanted for questioning in a recent crime involving a stolen vehicle” and that he reversed into a patrol car before accelerating in an attempt to plow his car into Barstow officers.

Yarber did have a criminal record, including past incidents of escaping officers following his arrests — yet he, like anyone else in the U.S., remains entitled to a day before the court rather than losing his life in an extrajudicial killing at the hands of police.

Attorney Dale K. Galipo, who has won numerous lawsuits in excessive-force cases involving fatal police shootings, noted that training and policies don’t permit police to fire at moving vehicles owing to the dangerous and avoidable nature of such methods of apprehension. Galipo represents one of the shooting victims.

Training and policy dictates that police should not fire at moving vehicles, said Galipo, noting that these kinds of killings are avoidable and particularly dangerous. Last year, undercover police in Hayward, California, attempted to shoot a driver they were trying to arrest and instead killed a 16-year-old girl sitting in the passenger seat.

Watch | Family Of Diante Butchie Yarber on The Senseless Killing Of Diante By Barstow Police

Navy veteran and local activist Wendy Jackson has denounced the killings in protest marches in the city. For her, the killing sadly typifies the “shoot first, ask questions later” style of U.S. law enforcement agencies’ dealings with oppressed nationalities – a stark contrast with their treatment of white male mass murderers like Nikolas Cruz, who attacked a high school on February 14 in Parkland, Florida:

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?”

Deploring the impunity police have in taking lives across the U.S., she added:

Cops are trained to handle situations, not just shoot and kill. They are not supposed to be the judge, jury and executioner.”


“No Justice, No Peace!”

Protesters fill Barstow road in Barstow CA on Tuesday April 10, 2018 as part of a protest against the officer involved shooting of Diante "Butchie" Yarber. (James Quigg/Daily Press via AP)

Protesters fill Barstow road in Barstow CA, April 10, 2018 as part of a protest against the shooting of Diante “Butchie” Yarber. (James Quigg/Daily Press via AP)

Barstow — which hosts the U.S. Armed Forces’ Fort Irwin National Training Center and Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow — lies two hours outside of Los Angeles and is known to Southern California residents as a major stop on the route from LA to Las Vegas.  

Last Tuesday, about 80 to 100 people marched in Yarber’s memory while chanting slogans such as “No Justice, No Peace!” Practicing a form of community solidarity and resourcefulness that has become a survival mechanism for poor and working-class communities faced with tragedy, friends have desperately tried to raise money for Yarber’s family through $10-per-ticket comedy shows, barbecues, car-wash fundraisers, and an online GoFundMe that has raised less than $3,000.

Police, in the meantime, have placed the officers involved in Yarber’s killing on paid administrative leave – a bureaucratic measure that strikes affected communities as tantamount to a paid vacation.

Watch | Officer involved shooting outside Walmart in Barstow

Whether the police will be found guilty of criminal malfeasance for the broad-daylight execution of Yarber will depend on the local district attorney. Local DAs typically rely heavily on police departments in their district, including both when investigating officer-committed shootings and when running for reelection. Accordingly, investigations rarely result in police being indicted for, let alone found guilty of, criminal behavior for shootings committed while on duty. In some cases, police involved in controversial killings are hidden from public view, serving “desk duty” in police stations before going back out on the beat after community outrage simmers down.

According to The Washington Post, 329 people have been shot and killed by police in 2018. California and Texas, respectively the number one and two most populous states in the U.S., lead other states in incidents of officer-committed shootings with 37 police killings this year. Last year, California officers shot and killed 162 people in the state, in addition to countless incidents of excessive force that didn’t involve firearms. While California is home to 12 percent of the U.S. population, 16 percent of police shootings in the U.S. took place in the state.


Reform legislation considered in California

Following the killing of 22-year-old unarmed black man Stephon Clark, California State Assembly Shirley Weber introduced Assembly Bill 931 – known as the Police Accountability and Community Protection Act –  which would prohibit the use of deadly force unless “it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death” and other methods of de-escalation or resolution fail to deter subjects. If the law is broken, investigation records will be accessible to the public.

Watch | CA Legislators Announce Plan to Restrict Police Use of Deadly Force

Whether the bill will pass in a state where local and statewide police unions wield an inordinate amount of political power – including the ability to intimidate politicians, decide the fate of elected officials, and pass tough-on-crime laws that criminalize communities or boost mass incarceration – remains to be seen.

“What happens is that the police unions, the police lobbyists come out in full force and then legislators who are afraid of their campaign coffers being interrupted side with law enforcement,” Cat Brooks, a founder of the Oakland-based Anti Police-Terror Project, told CALmatters.

Watch | Police Unions Object To Day Remembering Mario Woods

The law is gaining the cautious support of community advocacy groups like hers. Yet the group, like many across the state and the country, feels that the police are inherently a violent organization with a deeply-embedded antagonism toward poor and racialized communities that isn’t capable of being reined in through small changes to the law.

The group notes:

[We do] not believe the institution of policing can ever be reformed or ‘fixed.’  We are clear that its intention at birth was to uphold institutions of race-based capitalism through brutal and violent means.  It continues to do its job. We do however also believe that we must walk a path of radical reform on the way to abolition.”

Top Photo | Friends and family of Diante “Butchie” Yarber mourn as protesters filled the parking lot of the Barstow (CA) police department on Tuesday April 10, 2018. Yarber was shot and killed by a Barstow Police Department Officer on April 5.(James Quigg/Daily Press via AP)

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

The post California Community Fights for Accountability After Police Kill Unarmed Black Man in Hail of Bullets appeared first on MintPress News.

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