LOS ANGELES—Ezell Ford was a 25-year-old mentally-ill resident of South Los Angeles who was unarmed when he was shot by police on August 11.
The family announced Sept. 17 they had filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit, alleging the LAPD officers involved used excessive force and shot him while he was on the ground. They are seeking $75 million in damages.
The attorney for Ford’s parents said abuse of power, discrimination, and racial profiling by the police department resulted in the young man’s death.
“This was a homicide plain and simple,” said the attorney, Steven Lerman, who was also the attorney for Rodney King in 2002. “A disarmed, unarmed, helpless, hapless person was shot to death for no other reason than these officers were bored on a Monday night at eight o’clock and they knew Ezell Ford was handicapped.”
He said he would like to see the L.A. County district attorney determine if murder charges could be filed against the two officers.
Ford was one of 26 people shot to death by police officers in Los Angeles County from January to August of this year, according to a recent report by the Youth Justice Coalition.
The report counted 589 shootings in L.A. County from the beginning of 2000 up to the end of August 2014, an average of 42 a year.
Due to corruption, a federal judge put the department under close federal scrutiny in 2001 and set out a list of reforms the it had to undergo as part of a consent decree. In May of 2013, the same judge lifted that oversight.
Nationally, FBI statistics show that more than 400 police killings occur every year in the United States, yet only a fraction of law enforcement agencies voluntarily report this information.
Ezell Ford was shot two days after the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, who was similarly an unarmed young black man, shot not far from his home. Brown’s death galvanized widespread protests in Missouri with arrests for looting and threats to the police.
The protests for Ford’s death, however, have been relatively peaceful. About 500 people rallied last month outside Los Angeles police headquarters. But community members made apparent their distrust and frustration with the LAPD at a community forum on Aug. 19. Like Brown, there were differing accounts as to what happened in the lead up to his death, with police giving one account and witnesses another.
Police said Ford was shot after he tackled a police officer and reached for the officer’s gun.
The lawsuit, however, says the officers shot the man after he complied with police orders to lie on the ground.
Police promised investigations into the incident would be unbiased and thorough, however they needed more witnesses to come forward.
“We all want the same thing—for the truth to come out, and I know that’s exactly what everybody in this audience wants, so please work with me,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at the community meeting.
There is currently a hold placed on Ford’s autopsy. Police cite the need to get interviews from witnesses before the results are known so their accounts are not influenced by the results. Other says it is a stalling tactic for the police to come up with a plausible story.
“The blocking of the release Ford autopsy report further fuels suspicions about the LAPD’s version of the Ford killing,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, President of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable
No estimate has been given as to when the autopsy results will be released.