Stanislaus County sheriff’s Deputy Justin Wall on Thursday pleaded not guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the February 2017 death of Evin Olsen Yadegar, a Modesto woman who was shot during a pursuit in Ripon.
Wall appeared in a Stockton courtroom for his arraignment hearing, which had been postponed twice before as prosecutors handed over discovery evidence to the defense. Judith Odbert, Wall’s Sacramento-based attorney, entered the not guilty plea on behalf of her client.
Wall is facing the felony charge in San Joaquin County because he shot the woman after a pursuit that began in Salida and ended in Ripon.
Authorities initially said Yadegar did not respond to commands to get out of her 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.
Like the two previous hearings, Wall entered the courtroom Thursday with a large group of supporters, many of them wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “#StandwithJustin.”
Hanibal Yadegar, the deceased woman’s husband, returned to the courtroom holding a large portrait of his wife. He has told The Modesto Bee that he wants to make sure his wife is not forgotten as the court case unfolds.
Yadegar and her husband co-owned the popular Barkin’ Dog eatery in downtown Modesto. The widower sat quietly Thursday in the audience with his attorney, Stewart Tabak, who has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court on behalf of the Yadegar family.
In the criminal case, San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Ronald Northup scheduled a Jan. 22 preliminary hearing in which the court will decide whether there’s enough evidence for Wall to stand trial.
The preliminary hearing is expected to last two days. The prosecution and the defense will be allowed to present evidence and question witnesses before the judge makes a ruling.
Wall remains free on his own recognizance. The deputy has been placed on administrative leave, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
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.
The pursuit began and headed north on Highway 99 into San Joaquin County, before leaving the highway. The chase continued into Ripon, heading south on South Manley Road and stopping near Tornell Circle.
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.