Ezell Ford
Amid rising tensions, Los Angeles Police Department will release the autopsy results of Ezell Ford, an unarmed man shot and killed by police last summer. Courtesy photo

Updated 2:40 p.m. Dec. 28, 2014

After a week that saw police-community relations explode in New York City and nationwide, the Los Angeles Police Department will soon release the autopsy report for the unarmed man shot and killed by police here last summer.

The county coroner’s autopsy report for Ezell Ford, 25, has been on a security hold at the request of the Los Angeles Police Department, while it investigated the Aug. 11 shooting.  An LAPD spokeswoman today said it would be released by the end of the year, Wednesday.

That security hold, and the protracted police and district attorney’s investigations into the shooting, have frustrated some community and civil rights activists.

Saturday in Los Angeles, thousands of people marched peacefully through the streets of the Fairfax District to call for an end to police tactics that they said lead to too many shot suspects.

Eyewitness accounts of the Ford shooting vary. The L.A. police union last summer dismissed eyewitness accounts of what took place at 8:10 a.m. that Monday morning, on a residential stretch of 65th Street, two blocks southeast of Broadway and Gage Avenue. The original police narrative said Ford was making “suspicious movements” in the street when he turned and “grabbed one of the officers” and reached for the officer’s gun, prompting patrol officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas to open fire.

“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.”

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.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti 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.”

“We want the truth,” police Chief Charlie Beck said last summer. “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 forever.”

The chief also said the Ford case has been a “difficult investigation” for the department.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, L.A. Police Protective League President Tyler Izen cautioned that not all purported eyewitness reports should be considered accurate.

“Increasingly, in the immediate aftermath of any police shooting, unvetted statements by persons claiming to be witnesses are given prominent play.”

“While a factual investigation unfolds at a deliberate and slower pace, an inaccurate narrative can be created before the actual facts are determined,” the union chief said. The Ford shooting, he said, was “no exception, as we have read and viewed some inaccurate reports of what occurred.”

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, has said eyewitnesses gave him “a conflicting version of the shooting that disputed the LAPD version.”

“They said Ford was not resisting, that he had mental challenges, and that police officers in the area were well aware of him and his condition,” he said two days after the incident.

Hutchinson and other activists held a 1 p.m. rally Sunday near the shooting site, at Broadway and 65th Street.

At midmorning Sunday, a police spokeswoman confirmed that the Ford autopsy would be released Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday but details had not been released.

— City News Service

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