Lawyers for the family of an unarmed black man killed by police in a busy Southern California parking lot said Monday that an autopsy found he was shot 10 times and died from choking on his own blood as police delayed getting him medical help.
The autopsy concluded that 26-year-old Diante Yarber died of asphyxiation and that had he been given medical treatment, he would have had a chance at surviving his wounds, attorney S. Lee Merritt said at a news conference.
The autopsy was conducted by a private medical examiner at Merritt’s request. An autopsy by San Bernardino County authorities has not been released and it’s unclear whether it’s been finished.
Merritt, who is planning on filing a civil rights lawsuit in the case this week, said the private autopsy found that Yarber had wounds to his chest, back and arms and that he wasn’t given medical treatment for “a great deal of time.”
“The injuries are consistent with defensive wounds … as he was shielding himself and trying to escape the onslaught of bullets,” Merritt said.
Merritt did not respond to a message seeking a copy of the autopsy report.
Barstow police officers fatally shot Yarber on April 5 in a Walmart parking lot in the Mojave Desert city, about halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Police Chief Albert Ramirez Jr. released a statement Monday night that said Yarber was wanted for car theft after he jumped out of a stolen car last month and ran away.
On April 5, officers answering a report of a suspicious vehicle in the Walmart parking lot learned that the car was registered to Yarber, Ramirez said.
After an officer stopped the Mustang, the driver opened the door and the officer recognized Yarber, who then backed up the Mustang, hitting a patrol car, moved forward and backed again, almost hitting an officer and then striking an occupied police cruiser, Ramirez said.
Four officers then opened fire because they “feared for their safety and the safety of others,” the chief’s statement said.
All four had working body cameras and the footage was turned over to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department but won’t be made public until that investigation is complete, Ramirez said.
The officers’ names were not released.
Merritt disputes the account of the shooting by police, saying Yarber’s car was barely moving.
Grainy cellphone footage of the shooting shows officers fired their weapons at least a couple dozen times but doesn’t capture the full incident.
There were three others in the car with Yarber, a father of three, when police tried to stop him. His girlfriend was shot in the leg and abdomen in the backseat, while Yarber’s brother jumped out of the car and his cousin wasn’t hit.
“These officers are opening fire into a car with other passengers and in a Walmart parking lot in broad daylight with people walking all over the place that could have also been struck,” said Dale Galipo, an attorney representing Yarber’s girlfriend and cousin. “It’s obviously a totally excessive shooting.”
Yarber’s brother also told attorneys that he heard one officer shout a racial slur before the shooting.
Sharon Brunner, who represents Yarber’s girlfriend, said she and the other lawyers involved have been unable to find another witness to corroborate that claim.