A Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy accused in the shooting death of a Modesto woman made his first court appearance Monday afternoon in Stockton.
An arraignment hearing for Justin Wall was postponed until Sept. 17. Wall did not enter a plea in the case during a brief appearance in a San Joaquin County courtroom.
Two weeks ago, prosecutors charged Wall with voluntary manslaughter in the February 2017 death of Evin Olsen Yadegar.
Wall is facing that felony charge in San Joaquin County because he shot the woman after a pursuit that began in Salida and ended in Ripon.
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Authorities initially said Yadegar did not respond to commands to get out of vehicle and then put it in reverse, driving toward two deputies and a Ripon police officer.
Video footage from a patrol car’s dashboard camera show Yadegar backing up her car a few feet before moving forward to go around a Stanislaus County sheriff’s vehicle that had blocked her.
She was shot by Wall not as she’s backing up, but as she’s moving forward again.
The shooting occurred in the early hours of Feb. 26, 2017. The incident began when Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call at 2:56 a.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites in the 4900 block of Sisk Road in Salida.
Authorities have said a security guard reported that Yadegar had begun an argument and a physical confrontation with him. A deputy arrived at the hotel and saw Yadegar’s vehicle leaving the area.
A pursuit ensued, heading north on Highway 99 into San Joaquin County. At 3:17 a.m., Yadegar’s vehicle left the highway and continued into Ripon, heading south on South Manley Road and stopping near Tornell Circle. Ripon police officers had joined the chase.
San Joaquin County prosecutors say Yadegar stopped her Volkswagen sedan for several moments in the neighborhood off Main Street, before she drove off again. Then, Wall fired four shots at Yadegar.
The officers and the other sheriff’s officials who had gathered near the car did not fire their weapons.
Prosecutors said just one of the bullets Wall fired struck Yadegar. Her car then turned into a cul de sac, where the vehicle crashed into a home. Yadegar was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department use of force policy, as well as policies from other local law enforcement agencies, indicate that officers should move away from the vehicle instead of firing at its occupants.
Police departments in many major cities have largely banned shooting into or at vehicles. Exceptions include when a driver has a deadly weapon other than the vehicle or in a terrorist situation in which the driver is running over people.
The Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association, in a letter posted on its Facebook page earlier this month, defended Wall’s actions, saying Yadegar’s vehicle became a deadly weapon when she made an intentional attempt to hit two officers with her vehicle. Wall had roughly two dozen supporters in the courtroom during Monday’s appearance.
Some of them were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “#StandwithJustin.”
Yadegar and her husband, Hanibal Yadegar, co-owned the popular Barkin’ Dog eatery in downtown Modesto. Attorney Stewart Tabak has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the Yadegar family.
Wall, Stanislaus County and the city of Ripon are listed as defendants in the civil case filed in San Joaquin Superior Court.
Judith Odbert, Wall’s Sacramento-based attorney, declined to comment after the hearing, which lasted only a few minutes. She said the hearing was postponed for further proceedings.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said the prosecution has more evidence it needs to hand over to the defense, so Wall’s arraignment hearing was postponed. Wall will remain free on his own recognizance.
It’s unclear whether Judge Ronald Northup will set a bail amount for the defendant in this case.
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