A white California police officer who opened fire on a car in a Walmart parking lot along with three other officers, killing a black man, was charged with a hate crime after an off-duty bar fight in 2010. Barstow Police Officer Jimmie Alfred Walker was fired after being convicted of charges related to that incident, but an arbitrator later ruled that the department had to rehire him.
Walker, 38, was one of four officers to fire upon a Ford Mustang being driven by Diante Yarber, a 26-year-old father of three, who was killed by the gunfire, The Guardian reports. Three passengers were also in the car and one woman, Mariana Tafoya, was wounded, but all survived the incident. The April 5 shooting remains under investigation by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The shooting sparked outrage in the community and nationally and attorneys representing Yarber’s family plan to file a civil rights lawsuit against Walker, the other officers and the Barstow Police Department.
Walker, of Victorville, could not be reached for comment about the shooting and the past hate crime accusations and criminal convictions against him. It is not clear if he has hired an attorney. His name was first released by attorneys representing Yarber’s family and The Guardian confirmed his involvement in the shooting on April 30 with a spokesperson from the Barstow Police Department. Police had previously refused to identify the officers who shot Yarber and said in a statement it was “precluded by state law from providing or sharing any information related to the personnel records of the involved officers.”
Attorneys representing Yarber’s family and the passengers in the Mustang plan to file a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming the shooting was excessive and possibly racially motivated. “We believe the police officers had many other options at their disposal,” attorney Sharon Brunner told the Victorville Daily Press.
Merritt told the newspaper video shows the officers were not in danger. He also a passenger inside the vehicle claims one of the passengers heard the officers yelling racial slurs. “‘N*gger, we’re going to kill you.’ That’s what was being shouted by the officers before the shooting. They scared him so much he jumped out of the vehicle before the shooting occurred. He knew they had deadly intent. … We don’t want this to be another quick lawsuit. We want criminal accountability for these officers. That’s murder charges, that’s attempted murder charges, that’s a vigorous prosecution, conviction, and ultimately, a place behind bars.”
Here’s what you need to know about Jimmie Alfred Walker and the shooting:
1. Walker Pleaded Guilty After the Bar Fight, but Had the Conviction Dismissed When He Completed Probation, Which Included Making a $200 Donation to the NAACP & Attending Narcotics Anonymous Meetings
Jimmie Alfred Walker was arrested in November 2010 by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on hate crime and battery charges, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. According to the Times, Walker, then 30, was accused of using racial slurs against a man and assaulting him and a woman during a late night alercation outside a bar in Hesperia. Deputies responded to a disturbance call in the 11200 block of Fifth Avenue shortly after midnight on August 26. Walker was accused of assaulting the 32-year-old man and 31-year-old woman and deputies aid when they arrived they witnessed him using racial epithets toward the man. The Times reported that the race of the victims was not immediately available.
He was charged with violating the man’s civil rights by force or threat of force, disturbing the peace and two counts of misdemeanor battery, all misdemeanors, police told the Times. “The officer was charged under a 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,” the newspaper reported. He was released on $50,000 bail and the Barstow Police Department assigned him to stay home pending the outcome of the case.
According to a 2010 report in the San Bernardino Sun, Deputy District Attorney Lisa Crane said Walker could have faced two years and three months in prison if convicted of all the charges against him. “Authorities have not disclosed what spurred the attack. Crane said she could not comment on the facts of the case,” The Sun reported. Those details have never been made public.
The case remained open until March 2014. It is not clear if Walker remained on home duty or if he was returned to the streets during that period of time. On March 26, 2014, Walker pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of public intoxication and inciting a fight. The other charges, including battery and the hate crime, were dropped, the Victorville Daily Press reported at the time. Walker was sentenced to 36 months of probation and was ordered to pay $285 in court fees and to make a $200 donation to the NAACP. He was also required to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings 24 times.
Attorney Lee Merritt said that the media and police have brought up Diante Yarber’s criminal record, but he said that is not what is relevant to the case. “The relevant criminal record is the criminal record of the shooter. That has been absent from the discussion,” Merritt told The Guardian.
Another attorney, Sharon Brunner, told the newspaper Walker’s history backs up their claims the shooting was unjustified and shows he was racially prejudiced to shoot the four people in the Mustang, “We believe that it shows his improper motive and his bias and hatred of African Americans. We believe that the only reason that he would believe the car was suspicious is because it contained African Americans.”
Marlon Hawkins, who was in the car, told The Guardian he thinks the officers targeted them because they were black, “It’s really disheartening that we have these demonic people out there claiming to protect and serve … What they did was nothing short of evil.”
2. Walker, Who Spent 4 Years With the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department Before Being Hired in Barstow in 2009, Was Rehired by the Department With $169,000 in Back Pay After An Arbitrator’s Ruling
After his conviction, Barstow Police Department Lieutenant Mike Hunter told the Victorville Daily Press that Jimmie Walker had been fired from the department. He also added that Walker had the right to appeal his dismissal through an arbitration hearing, according to police department and city policies and state law. In 2015, that arbitration process was completed and an arbitrator ruled that he must be rehired by the Barstow Police Department and given back pay, according to a November 2015 article in the Victorville Daily Press.
The newspaper reported that Walker was fired in October 2013 and an internal investigation. But the arbitrator decided that Walker’s off-duty actions during the 2010 incident that led to his arrest and conviction were not worthy of termination. The city had to pay more than $82,000 in attorney’s fees and more than $10,000 in arbitrator fees. They were also ordered to pay $163,403 in back pay to Walker. Not long after Walker returned to the force, Captain Andy Espinoza tweeted out a photo praising the officer for an “exceptional display of service” for giving a disabled man a ride to the bank. Espinoza added, “Proud to work with you!”
Along with getting his job back and the check for lost wages, Walker also had the conviction wiped from his record, against the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office’s objections, spokesman Chris Lee told the Daily Press. Lee told the newspaper in 2015, “The defendant pleaded guilty to fighting in a public place and being drunk in public. He was sentenced to three years’ probation with conditions.” Lee said the judged ordered Walker to not violate any law other than minor traffic violations, pay court fees and fines and to complete NA meetings, which he did.
“In all misdemeanor cases, the law allows any defendant to come back to court after they have fulfilled the terms of their probation,” Lee told the newspaper. “It also allows the defendant to ask the court to terminate probation early and to have their charges dismissed. Over our office’s objection in this particular case, the court granted the defense motions.”
Barstow Chief Albert Ramirez, who still runs the department today, declined to comment at the time, and a spokesperson said, “We are bound by confidentiality laws and cannot discuss the specifics of the case in detail.”
Walker was originally hired by the Barstow Police Department in 2009 after spending four years working for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office. According to Transparent California, Walker was paid $59,213 in “regular pay” in 2016, the latest year in which salary data is available. He also received $9,216 in overtime pay and $28,972 in “other pay,” along with $21,544 in benefits, for a total compensation of $118,945.
3. Video Captured Dozens of Shots Ringing Out in the Walmart Parking Lot & Police Say All 4 Officers Opened Fire on the Ford Mustang Diante Yarber Was Driving
The shooting that left Diante “Butchie” Yarber dead and Mariana Tafoya wounded occurred on April 5, 2018, in the parking lot of the Walmart store at 301 Montara Road in Barstow, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department said in a press release. The shooting and the incident surrounding it were recorded on dashboard cameras, officer body cameras and Walmart surveillance video systems, according to police and attorneys for Yarber’s family. That video has not been released, but a grainy video filmed by a witness has been released by Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys representing Yarber’s family. The civil rights attorney posted the video, which you can watch below, on Facebook.
The video does not show much of the incident, but dozens of shots can be heard, with lawyers saying the officers fired at least 30 shots into the black Ford Mustang that Yarber was driving. Tafoya, who was one of three passengers in the car, was struck by gunfire along with Yarber, but survived. Two other passengers, Yarber’s friend, Marlon Hawkins, and his cousin, Weslie Yarber, were not wounded. Police said the entire incident was captured on their videos, but have refused requests to release it. “The body worn cameras captured different angles of the incident and the Barstow Police Department has turned those videos over to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department as part of their criminal investigation. The Barstow Police Department’s procedure is not to release any videos that are part of an on-going investigation,” police said in a statement. You can watch the witness’s video here:
Police accounts of what happened differ from those released by Merritt and other attorneys for Yarber’s family, along with the statements made to the media by Hawkins and Weslie Yarber. It was several days before police released any information about the shooting, as frustrated protesters took to the streets near the Walmart demanding information. On April 11, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office issued a press release on its “Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Peace Officer/Officer Involved Shooting,” investigation, calling Yarber, who was killed, a “suspect,” and the officers as “victims,” while the other three passengers were described as “involved parties.”
The sheriff’s department said in its statement, “On Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 10:53 a.m. Barstow Police Officers responded to a call of a suspicious vehicle, a black Mustang, in the parking lot of the Walmart store. Officers arrived and located the vehicle in the parking lot. Officers believed the driver was a subject wanted for questioning in a recent crime involving a stolen vehicle. Officers attempted a traffic stop of the Mustang when the driver suddenly reversed the vehicle and struck one of the patrol cars. When the driver again accelerated toward the officers and struck a second patrol car, the officer involved shooting occurred. Two of the four occupants were struck by gunfire. The driver was pronounced deceased at the scene. A female passenger suffered gunshot wounds and was airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. The two male passengers exited the vehicle during the incident and one of them sustained minor injuries to his lower extremities in the process. Both injured passengers are expected to recover from their injuries.”
No other details were released. On April 24, Barstow Police released its first in-depth statement on the shooting. In that statement, police said Diante Yarber was wanted in connection to an incident that occurred the morning of March 18. Police said a Barstow officer tried to stop a Hyundai during a “reckless driver call,” on East Main Street. According to police, the Hyundai’s driver “failed to yield to the officers’ red light and siren and fled in the vehicle at a high rate of speed.” The driver then got out of the vehicle on Yucca Avenue and ran from the officer. Police said they identified the driver as Diante Yarber and said the vehicle’s owner reported that Yarber stole the Hyundai on March 16, 2018. Police obtained probable cause to arrest Yarber on charges of unlawful taking of a vehicle and evading police, according to the press release.
The Barstow Police Department said in its statement that they were called to the Walmart parking lot on April 5 for a report of a “suspicious vehicle,” which was described as a black Mustang. Police did not say why the vehicle was believed to be suspicious. According to the statement, officers checkted the license plate “of the vehicle and learned that the vehicle was registered to a person with the last name of Yarber. The information regarding the registered owner was broadcast to the officers responding to the call.” Diante Yarber’s family says the Mustang was owned by his cousin. “Information that Diante Yarber was seen in a black mustang vehicle the day prior was also reported to the officers responding to the call,” police said. This is what police say happened next, according to the press release:
Barstow Police Officers responded to the location and when they arrived at Walmart they observed the black Mustang matching the description as provided to them by the dispatch center. One of the officers conducted a traffic stop on the black mustang by activating his patrol unit’s red light. The Mustang pulled into a parking stall and the driver opened his door.
The officer recognized the driver of the black Mustang as Diante Yarber and ordered him out of the vehicle. Yarber failed to follow the officer’s order, closed his door, and accelerated his vehicle in reverse striking the patrol vehicle. Yarber continued to accelerate his vehicle forward and in reverse towards the officers, almost hitting one officer before colliding with the rear of another patrol vehicle occupied by an officer.
The officers feared for their safety and the safety of others and an officer involved shooting occurred. Four (4) officers fired rounds from their duty sidearms during the incident. All four (4) officers were wearing their department issued body worn cameras and had them activated and recording at the time of the incident.
The Barstow Police Department has not said what role Jimmie Alfred Walker played in the incident, other than being one of the officers to shoot at Yarber, and have not detailed what the other officers roles were. Photos taken at the scene show the bullet-riddled Mustang:
Attorneys representing Yarber’s family and the other passengers in the Mustang have disputed parts of the police version of events. They told The Guardian that the car Yarber was driving o the store was not stolen and he was unarmed and not a threat to the police officers. They say it violates “basic law enforcement standards to fire into a packed vehicle,” according to The Guardian. While police have called it an “assault” on officers, Dale Galipo, an attorney representing Tafoya, Yarber’s friend who was wounded, told The Guardian that Yarber was unarmed and the officers were not in the path of the Mustang when they opened fire. Merritt and the other attorneys have said they have video showing that the officers lives were not at risk.
Hawkins, who was one of the passengers, told The New York Times that everything happened quickly. He said they had just pulled in to the Walmart parking lot when several police cars arrived, boxing in the Mustang. He said there was then a lot of yelling and gunfire. Hawkins said he jumped out of the car and got on the ground.
Merritt said at a press conference on April 23, “Video evidence shows the black Ford Mustang Yarber was operating backing slowly away from police when they opened fire.” In a statement on Facebook, Merritt wrote:
Diante Yarber was profiled, stalked and murdered by Barstow PD officers. 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 the BPD. 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. Video footage of his car reversing slowly away from law enforcement was captured by a a pedestrian, just before officers began to shoot into the vehicle. Barstow PD confronted a vehicle full of people, suspected of nothing more than ‘looking suspicious’ with an amount force that would have been deemed excessive in a war zone. Near 10 a.m. in a crowded parking lot, police officers decided to halt Yarber’s vehicle by unleashing over 30 rifle rounds in the windshield and driver side door. Training and policy dictates that police should never fire at moving vehicles because it only increases the danger to others if they successfully disable the driver. The investigation has revealed Yarber was unarmed and that officers were not in the path of his vehicle when they opened fire. Yarber was struck an estimated two dozen times in the barrage of bullets. His back seat passenger, Marian Tafoya, was struck in her abdomen and leg and had to be airlifted to emergency treatment. This is the worse case of excessive and unnecessary force I have seen in my career. The Yarber family deserves answers in the form of transparency by the BPD. Body, dash and surveillance video must be turned over to my office immediately. The San Bernardino County district attorney must thoroughly investigate and zealously prosecute the gunman involved.
Merritt told The Guardian that Yarber did not pose any threat to officers and it was reckless for them to spray the car full of bullets with four people inside and bystanders nearby. “They saw a car full of black people sitting in front of a Walmart, and they decided that was suspicious. They just began pouring bullets … It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s mind-boggling, the use of force,” Merritt told the newspaper.
Merritt also told reporters that the four officers did not provide medical aid to Yarber as he was bleeding to death in the parking lot. He said it appeared Yarber was shot 10 times. Yarber, whose funeral was April 27, was a father of three and worked at a warehouse. Several protests and gatherings have been held in Barstow since the shooting to raise awareness and call for answers.
“More than I’ve ever seen before, law enforcement is being really, really closelipped about this investigation. A lot of people talked about the need for ongoing protests and marches — a lot more than I would expect at a funeral,” Merritt told the New York Times after Yarber was laid to rest.
“The police took him away for no reason,” Brittany Chandler, the mother of Yarber’s 19-month-old daughter, Leilani, told The Guardian. “The police should be held accountable for this … They are sick people for them to be able to shoot someone down in broad daylight.”
Samantha Robledo, the mother of Yarber’s 7-year-old daughter, told the newspaper, “He would always make you smile, no matter what. ou couldn’t be angry around him. He was so loving and friendly, and that’s what we’re going to miss the most.”
4. Walker Was Part of a Barstow Police Department Team That Took Part in a Shooting Competition Last Year
Officer Jimmie Walker was part of a Barstow Police Department team that took part in a shooting competition hosted at the department’s gun range in April 2017, according to a post on Barstow PD’s Facebook page.
“We held the 5th Annual Shooting Competition on Friday. There were eight local law enforcement teams who participated in the competition. Each agency selected their best shooter to enter the competition,” the department wrote. “Barstow Police Department’s team consisted of Lieutenant Chris Kirby, Detective Tom Lewis, Detective Nathaniel Arias, and Officer Jimmy Walker. The competition had two obstacles courses that each team had to complete. The team member with the best time in both courses advanced to the top gun competition to represent their agency.”
Walker has been featured on the department’s Facebook page several times, with pictures showing him taking part in charity events, including runs benefiting police organizations. He was also praised for his role in a marijuana bust in 2017 that drew criticism from dozens of commenters on the Facebook page.
5. The 3 Other Officers Who Opened Fire Have Been Identified as Corporal Jose Barrientos, Officer Mathew Helms & Officer Vincent Carrillo
The other officers who fired their weapons during the shooting have been identified as Corporal Jose Barrientos, Officer Mathew Helms and Officer Vincent Carrillo, the Victorville Daily Press reports. All four officers have been placed on paid administrative leave. The officers were all wearing body cameras that were activated and were recording the incident, police said. They fired their duty sidearms.
Barrientos has worked for the Barstow Police Department for more than 11 years, according to a 2016 Facebook post celebrating his 10th years of service with the department. It is not clear when Helms joined the department. Carrillo was hired in 2016. Details about their service records, including whether they have faced complaints or been involved in previous use-of-force incidents, were not immediately available.
“After the incident, the Barstow Police Department requested the assistance of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Special Investigations Unit to conduct the criminal investigation. The department is continuing to cooperate with their investigation,” Captain Andrew Espinoza said in a statement. “The Barstow Police Department also has a comprehensive internal review process. An investigator from the department responded to the scene to conduct an administrative investigation. The internal affairs investigation is separate and apart from the criminal investigation.”
Espinoza added, “San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives are still investigating the incident. Anyone with information may call Homicide Detective Bruce Southworth at 909-387-3589. Those wishing to remain anonymous may also call the WE-Tip hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463) or may leave information on the We-Tip website at www.wetip.com.”