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Ezell Ford update: Commission meets Tuesday to review report

A portrait of Ezell Ford, killed by LAPD officers in August near this spot, is on the wall of a market at 65th Street and Broadway in South Los Angeles
Sharon McNary/KPCC
A portrait of Ezell Ford, killed by LAPD officers in August near this spot, is on the wall of a market at 65th Street and Broadway in South Los Angeles

At a press conference late Friday, the L.A. Police Commission said it will discuss the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford at its next meeting on Tuesday. The commission, a civilian panel that oversees the department, has the final decision over whether or not the use of deadly force was justified. 

The conference was called after unconfirmed reports surfaced Friday in the Los Angeles Times that two LAPD officers would be cleared of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford, an unarmed, mentally ill black man in South Los Angeles. KPCC has not been able to confirm the report.

Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, said during Friday night's press conference that the notion "that anything has been decided, by anyone, is unfair to the Ford family." 

Ezell Ford's shooting death occurred last August, only two days after the death Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  Ford's shooting was among several nationwide that focused renewed attention on police killings of unarmed African-American men.  There have been several demonstrations in Los Angeles calling for the police officers to be disciplined in the Ford case.

Frustration, resignation on the streets near Ford's home

On the street where Ford was killed Saturday, many people were angry. Not least Ford’s mother Tribotia.

“My son was murdered and I’m told the c0ps are clear?” she said. “I’m livid. I’m mad. I’m hurt.”

She added she holds little hope the police commission would change the decision.

 “I don’t expect the police commission to turn anything over. I expect they’ll go right along with Chief Beck,” she said.

Many in the neighborhood echoed Tribotia's sentiments, decrying the the report that the LAPD was planning to clear officers involved in Ford's death.

“Basically they’re saying they’re going to continue to allow our cops to kill our innocent people, and get away with it,” said Curtis Robinson.

Robinson said he held out hope the police commission would find the shooting out of policy.

Not everyone was so critical of the police.

Maria Paredes, who lives down the street from where Ford was shot, said she supported the officers' actions. She said if Ford went for the officer’s gun, as police say, “you have to protect your life.”

“The police officer was just doing his job,” she said. “If you’re doing something wrong, you can expect something wrong to happen to you.”

Next steps in the investigation

Ford was shot three times by two LAPD officers from the Newton Division Aug. 11,2014. He was in a struggle with Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas  in front of a house in the 200 block of 65th Street.

Family members said Ford was mentally ill. He was a promising youth basketball player, but was wounded in a gang-related shooting in 2008. The family filed a civil rights wrongful death lawsuit against the city and police in federal court.

Police said they were making no comment about the report in the L.A. Times.

Police Chief Charlie Beck, the Office of the Inspector General and the Board of Police Commissioners review police shootings to determine if they comply with the department's use-of-force policy. They standard is whether the officers' actions were objectively reasonable.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Justice System Integrity Division was also expected to review the shooting.  

The county Coroner's office ruled the death a homicide late last year. The autopsy said Ford was shot in the upper front right side, and in his upper back on the right side. A gun muzzle imprint was left on Ford's body. A third bullet hit the back of his right arm, a few inches above the elbow.  Marijuana was found in his system, according to the coroner's toxicology report.