Updated at 2:25 p.m., Jan. 9, 2015
Demonstrators vowed to continue protesting outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters Friday, after police Chief Charlie Beck refused to meet their demand that he immediately fire two officers involved in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ezell Ford.
As many as 100 members of the group, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles — a local chapter of a national coalition — have gathered regularly outside police headquarters since Dec. 30 in response to the release of autopsy results showing Ford was shot once in the right side of his back, once in his right arm and once in his right abdomen.
Sharlton Wampler, a 12-year veteran of the LAPD, and eight-year veteran Antonio Villegas have been on administrative duty since shooting Ford in South Los Angeles on Aug. 11.
Members of Black Lives Matter say LAPD officers were aware that Ford had mental health issues and contend the two officers should not have shot Ford, who was unarmed. The two officers contend they acted in self-defense, saying Ford was reaching for one of the officer’s guns.
Four members of Black Lives Matter were granted a meeting with Beck after several demonstrators on Tuesday went to a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission — the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD — to demand that Beck fire the two officers who shot Ford, with one speaker calling Beck a “coward.”
Following their meeting with the chief, which was also attended by Council President Herb Wesson, protesters repeated the sentiment about Beck, with organizer Melina Abdullah saying that during the meeting, Beck “wasn’t going as far as a courageous chief could go … ”
Beck bogged down the meeting with “bureaucratic conversation” about how he could not immediately fire the two officers, the Cal State Los Angeles professor said. “We communicated that we’re very smart people, we’ve already researched that process, but that’s the bulk of what we got from the chief of police.”
Nana Gyamfi, an attorney for Black Lives Matter, said Beck became “mush- mouthed” when members of their group asked whether he could look into other disciplinary issues in the case, aside from whether the shooting itself fell within department policy or not, which requires going through a review by the Police Commission.
“The courage that we would expect of a police chief of such a large organization — in such an important city as Los Angeles — seemed to disappear and not be there,” Gyamfi said.
“There was a lot of mush-mouth and trying to refocus on what we already understood,” she said. “Instead of giving us what you’re going to do … basically we got nothing. Chief Beck is going to do nothing. That’s what he indicated.”
Gyamfi said based on her experience with police misconduct cases, Beck has the option of putting the officers on unpaid leave, rather than allowing taxpayers to continue footing their salaries while they perform desk duty.
“A shot in the back with a muzzle imprint, at close range?” Gyami said, referring to the markings reported on Ford’s body as part of the autopsy results. “There is no way to say that nothing happened, even if it’s just giving a misleading statement.”
LAPD spokesman Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the chief felt it was a productive meeting in which the demonstrators were “reassured” that officers would “do whatever we can ensure their rights to peaceful protest here” outside police headquarters.
Smith added that Beck wanted to make it “clear to people that the chief is not able to fire officers like that, and in use-of-force cases like this,” which must be reviewed by the Police Commission, for him to take action now would be “overstepping the bounds.”
Abdullah acknowledged they are “thankful” for the meeting and consider it “a win” after being told three days ago that Beck would not meet with them.
Demonstrators were also able to get Beck to agree to have his officers respect their right to protest outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, she said.
“We have been promised we’ll be treated more respectfully and that hopefully we won’t be arrested trying to access public facilities anymore,” Abdullah said.
Two protesters were arrested Monday, with police saying the pair disobeyed orders and tried to breach a barricade around LAPD headquarters. The women insisted they were only trying to deliver a letter to request a meeting with Beck.
In addition to calling for the two officers to be fired, the Black Lives Matter group is also demanding that the Police Commission urge District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate and press charges against officers who use excessive force.
The group also requested the release of the autopsy report on 37-year- old Omar Abrego, who died in August about 12 hours after a struggle with a pair of LAPD officers who had pulled him over. The group says it wants the police to work with the community on a plan for how officers should respond to calls.
— City News Service