Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday the autopsy on a man who was shot by two police officers in South Los Angeles will be made public by the end of the year, but he and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck reiterated a call for witnesses to come forward to help end the department’s investigation.
The autopsy report on Ezell Ford, 25, has been on a security hold at the request of the Los Angeles Police Department while the investigation into the Aug. 11 shooting continues.
That security hold, along with the seemingly protracted investigation into the shooting, has led to frustration from some community and civil rights activists, some of whom met with Beck today to push for progress in the probe.
Garcetti said he has ordered the LAPD to release the autopsy by the end of the year, saying the information is “important to the family and to the community.”
Beck said he does not want to permanently bar access to the autopsy report.
“We want the truth,” Beck said. “We want witness statements to be as untainted as possible. That is why we’ve held the autopsy. We have no intention of denying the family or this community access to that autopsy (report) forever.”
The chief said the Ford case has been a “difficult investigation” for the department, and he asked that anyone who witnessed the shooting but is uncomfortable with talking to police to contact the District Attorney’s Office or the office of LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said she is “interested in facilitating any reluctant witness,” and her office’s Bureau of Investigations “will accept statements from witnesses who prefer to (speak to) our investigators before speaking with LAPD.”
“As I have said publicly before, no one is above the law,” Lacey said.
Garcetti also urged witnesses to come forward, saying the city and community are “united in the search for truth.”
Days after the shooting in the 200 block of West 65th Street, Los Angeles police said Ford tackled one of the officers and reached for the officer’s gun, prompting Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas to open fire.
Police said the officers were approaching Ford, who was making “suspicious movements,” when he turned and “grabbed one of the officers.”
“During the struggle, they fell to the ground and the individual (Ford) tried to remove the officer’s handgun from its holster,” according to the LAPD. “The partner officer then fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon at the individual.”
Ford’s family filed a $75 million federal lawsuit against the city in September, contending that Ford was shot while complying with police orders to lay on the ground.
The family’s attorney, Steven Lerman, said Ford was “mentally challenged,” a fact known to the officers, and was not doing anything wrong when he was stopped. He also alleged the two officers involved in the shooting were “poorly trained” and have a documented “pattern and practice” of reckless conduct on the streets.
“These were rogue officers who knew everyone on that block,” Lerman said when he filed the suit. “This poorly disabled man became a victim of these officers.”
The shooting touched off several protests and calls for a speedy and transparent investigation. Activists have contended that eyewitnesses dispute the police account of events.
Earlier this year, however, Bustamante put out a call for witnesses to the shooting — saying only one person had come forward.
Officials said witnesses can come forward by calling the District Attorney’s Office at (213) 974-3608, the Office of the Inspector General at (213) 482-6833, as well as the LAPD at (877) LAPD-24-7 or (800) 222-TIPS.
— City News Service