Ezell Ford
Ezell Ford. Courtesy photo

A group protesting the shooting death of an unarmed man by police in South Los Angeles last summer parked themselves in front of the Hancock Park residence of Mayor Eric Garcetti on Sunday and vowed not to leave for 48 hours.

The protest was organized by Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles in response to news that Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck and Inspector General Alex Bustamante have found that officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas were justified in shooting 25-year-old black man Ezell Ford on Aug. 11 near the intersection of 65th Street and Broadway.

Those findings reportedly indicate that Ford’s DNA was found on the officers, along with scratches apparently inflicted by Ford on the officers’ hands, and on one holster.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission is due to consider the findings of the LAPD and inspector general investigations into the shooting.

News of the reports’ contents broke late Friday, and the city was quiet overnight. Some protesters gathered about 3 p.m. Saturday near the spot where Ford was wounded and today protesters gathered outside the mayor’s residence as part of what’s being called “48 hours of protest” over the young man’s killing.

Activists, including Los Angeles Urban Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson, National Action Network – West Coast Political Affairs Director Najee Ali and Voice of the People founder Pedro Baez also are distributing the police commission phone number and urging residents to spend the next two days making calls to “demand a fair, impartial and transparent finding” regarding the shooting.

The protesters outside the mayor’s home were at one point today joined by Ford’s mother. They are demanding that Beck step down or be fired and warn that they will work to prevent Garcetti’s re-election if the chief is not replaced.

The results of the LAPD and inspector general investigations have not been released and Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff has said no decision has been made by the civilian panel as to the officers’ fates.

To say “anything has been decided by anyone is unfair to the Ford family,” Soboroff said.

The shooting of Ford in the 200 block of West 65th Street sparked months of protests and calls by community activists for a swift transparent investigation.

Wampler, a 12-year veteran of the LAPD, and Villegas, an eight-year veteran, were both reassigned to administrative duties afterward.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the department found that Ford was fighting for control of one officer’s gun, noting that Ford’s DNA was found on the weapon. Investigators also found that Wampler’s hands were scratched, as was the holster for Wampler’s gun.

Bustamante also found the shooting to be justified, but he faulted officers for how they approached Ford in the first place and questioned if the officers had sufficient justification to approach and try to detain him, The Times reported.

Police have 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’s official account of the shooting. “The partner officer then fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon at the individual.”

Autopsy results showed Ford was shot three times — in the right side of his back, the right arm and the right abdomen. The gunshot wounds to the back and the abdomen were both fatal, according to the report.

Ford was pronounced dead in an operating room at California Hospital Medical Center.

The autopsy report noted that the gunshot wound on Ford’s back had “muzzle imprint,” indicating the shot was fired at close range, and that Ford had some marijuana in his system.

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.

Ford’s family filed a $75 million federal lawsuit against the city last September, contending that Ford was shot while complying with police orders to lay on the ground. The family also filed a complaint in state court in March.

— City News Service

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