Barstow Cop Who Shot Yarber Last Month Taunted Hesperia Black Couple With Racial Epithets in 2010

The revelation that one of the four Barstow police officers involved in the fatal shooting of an African-American man on April 5 was previously arrested and charged by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office with a so-called hate crime in 2010 has intensified the controversy over the shooting.
On April 5, Barstow Police were dispatched to the Super Walmart at East Main Street and Montara Road to investigate the sighting there of “a suspicious vehicle” after the department had received an earlier report of a stolen car.
Upon arriving, officers spotted a black Mustang in the Walmart parking lot, in which Diante
Yarber, 26, was at the wheel. Three others were in the car with Yarber, identified as Marlon Hawkins, 41, Yarber’s cousin; Marian Tafoya; and Weslie Yarber, Yarber’s brother.
According to the police, the officers on the scene ordered Diante Yarber to get out of the car, but he did not comply. According to the department’s version of events, Yarber “continued to accelerate his vehicle forward and in reverse toward the officers, almost hitting one officer.” After slamming into one of the patrol cards, the police department maintains Yarber accelerated once again toward officers standing near their vehicles. At that point, the officers directed a fusillade of some 30 bullets at the car. “The officers feared for their safety and the safety of others and an officer-involved shooting occurred,” the department maintains.
Yarber was killed in the hail of gunfire. Tafoya was wounded and hospitalized.
An autopsy done at the behest of lawyers representing Yarber’s family members found that Yarber had been shot ten times.
No firearms were found inside the Mustang, which was owned by Yarber’s aunt and was not stolen. According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the shooting, “Officers believed the driver was a subject wanted for questioning in a recent crime involving a stolen vehicle.”
The police department, which has video footage of the incident, refused to release it to the Sentinel. It is believed the sheriff’s department has been provided with those moving images, captured by at least two of the dash cameras in the police vehicles and a security camera owned by Walmart. In a seven second duration video shot by a witness in the parking lot, as the action begins the black Mustang can be seen backing up slowly. At the one second mark, a single shot can be heard. The view of the shooting is partially obscured by a woman wheeling a shopping cart in the field between the video camera and one of the police cars. At the three second mark two shots in rapid succession are heard as the car continues in reverse very slowly. At four seconds a series of shots spaced so closely together that they at points resemble machine gun fire can be heard. From the backpanning of the video, the camera operator appears to be retreating and the woman pushing the shopping cart is seen moving to her right to take cover near a parked vehicle. Only one of the officers, to the left side of a police car with its door open, can be clearly seen in the video. Roughly 28 shots are audible during the entirety of the video. As the shooting ends, the officer appears to be diving into the police car on the driver side.
The police department and the City of Barstow made relatively rapid disclosure of the incident. Early on, Yarber’s identity and his alias of Antwion Raymon Stewart was released, together with the information that he had repeated arrests and/or convictions for domestic violence, property crimes and offenses related to firearms. This year, on March 19, he was charged with a parole violation stemming from his having pleaded no contest to misdemeanor domestic battery occurring in 2017. Also in March, the police department had identified him as a primary suspect in a cart theft. In 2016, he was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest, spousal battery, taking a vehicle without permission, dissuading a witness and felony violating parole, and was convicted on the spousal battery and parole violation charges. In 2015, his parole was revoked. In 2014 he was charged with associating with a street gang, being in possession of a firearm in a vehicle, receiving stolen property and carrying a concealed weapon, all of which were dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea on a misdemeanor escaping from custody charge. He was convicted of felony inflicting corporal injury on a spouse and misdemeanor resisting arrest charges in 2013. He was convicted of possession of a controlled substance in 2012. He was convicted of felony discharge of a firearm with gross negligence in 2011. Brought to light were Yarber’s past contacts with the Barstow Police Department, including an incident on March 1, 2014 when he was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm and a parole violation. Yarber, who was then 22 and was going by the nickname Butchie, was transported to the Barstow Police Annex for interrogation. Upon the completion of that questioning, Yarber, while yet handcuffed was being escorted by a police officer to a patrol car to be transported for booking, fled on foot, managing to elude the officer.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Yarber’s family members sought legal representation, retaining lawyers S. Lee Merritt and Sharon Bruner. Another civil rights attorney, Dale Galipo was retained by some of the witnesses to the shooting.
According to Weslie Yarber, Diante’s sibling who was in the vehicle with his brother before he was killed and himself managed to get out of the vehicle without sustaining any bullet wounds, he heard one officers shout a racial slur before the shooting.
When the attorneys showcased Weslie Yarber’s statement about hearing one of the officer’s uttering a racial slur as the shooting was about to commence, that claim was met with widespread skepticism, and was lambasted as an effort to imbue the shooting with a racial element it in actuality did not possess. Doubts over Weslie Yarber’s claim heightened when Brunner, who represents the mother of one of Yarber’s three children, said neither she nor any of the other attorneys representing Diante Yarber’s family or the witnesses had been able to corroborate Weslie Yarber’s claim with any of the other witnesses.
This week, however, the Barstow Police Department disclosed the names of the four officers involved in the Yerber shooting. They were identified on Monday April 30 as corporal Jose Barrientos, officer Vincent Carrillo, officer Jimmie Alfred Walker and officer Mathew Allen Helms. All four opened fire on the black Ford Mustang, out of what the department said was a legitimate fear that Yarber was going to run them down.
Walker was arrested on August 26, 2010 by sheriff’s deputies in Hesperia responding to a disturbance call in the 11200 block of Fifth Avenue outside a bar. Walker, who is white, allegedly assaulted a 32-year-old black man and a 31-year-old black woman at the scene. In the presence of the responding deputies, Walker, who was apparently intoxicated, directed racial epithets toward the man.
In November 2010, Walker was charged with one misdemeanor count of violating the man’s civil rights, two counts of battery and one count of disturbing the peace. He was charged under a provision of the law known as the hate crime statute that makes it unlawful to use force, threats or intimidation to interfere with another person’s rights because of disability, gender, nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation.
Walker, who joined the Barstow Police Department in May 2009 after working as a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy, was placed off duty by the police department pending resolution of the case against him.
On March 26, 2014, Walker, who had remained suspended from the department for much of the intervening time, entered into a plea arrangement in which he entered guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges of public intoxication and inciting a fight in exchange for the dismissal of the battery and hate crime charges. He was sentenced to 36 months of probation, ordered to pay $285 in court fees, required to make a $200 donation to the NAACP and to attend 24 Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He was officially fired by the department after the two convictions were recorded.
Subsequently, Walker was reinstated to the department and awarded $163,403 in back pay after he contested the firing with the civil service commission and an administrative law judge ruled that because the action for which Walker was charged and convicted was a misdemeanor that occurred while he was off-duty and outside the City of Barstow, he had been wrongfully terminated.
Mark Gutglueck

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