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LAPD inspector general struggles to find witnesses in Ezell Ford shooting

Malcolm McIntosh of Inglewood lights candles at a memorial where 25-year-old Ezell Ford who was fatally shot by Los Angeles police on Monday. McIntosh is hoping  for residents to organize soon and make a plan for how to prevent deputy-involved shootings.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Malcolm McIntosh lights candles at a memorial where Los Angeles police fatally shot Ezell Ford. The LAPD inspector general is having a hard time finding witnesses.

The LAPD’s Inspector General said Tuesday only one witness has come forward in the fatal police shooting of Ezell Ford, 25,  an unarmed mentally ill African American man shot by officers last month in South Los Angeles. The incident has sparked numerous protests and comparisons to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Since the time of the incident, my office has been trying to obtain witness statements and any video, to the extent it exists, that anyone may have regarding the shooting,” LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante said in a statement. “For whatever reason, although many individuals have indicated that multiple witnesses exist, only a single witness has come forward with information regarding this case.”

Bustamante’s investigation is one of three into the shooting: the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division and LA County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division also are conducting inquiries.

The inspector general said he remains hamstrung by the lack of first-person accounts of what happened in a neighborhood where distrust of police can run deep.

“I need witnesses to come forward,” he said “I remain powerless without witness accounts of the incident to shed additional light on what occurred.”

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith has said gang officers were making an “investigative stop” in the 200 block of West 65th Street around 8pm August 11 when Ford “tackled” one of the officers and tried to grab his gun. The department has refused to provide a more complete explanation of why officers stopped Ford. 

The LAPD has withheld the results of the autopsy on Ford. Smith said investigators do not want witnesses to be “tainted” by what they see in the media about the autopsy.

Ford’s mother has said her son is mentally ill and that the shooting was unjustified.

In his statement, the inspector general emphasized his independence from the department. Bustamante reports to the five-member civilian police commission appointed by the mayor.  

“I do not answer or report to the Chief of Police or his staff,” he said. “I have the authority to look into every aspect of this shooting and get the necessary statements, documents, and evidence from Los Angeles Police Department, and I will.”

The statement urged witnesses to contact the inspector general at his office directly at (213) 482-6833 or email him at