Los Angeles Police Panel: 1 Officer Unjustified in Death

June 9, 2015 Updated: June 9, 2015

LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles Police Commission found Tuesday that one officer acted within policy but the other violated it in the fatal close-range shooting of a 25-year-old black man last year.

The commission’s vote was unanimous involving both officers, finding that the senior officer was justified in the August shooting death of Ezell Ford and the other was unjustified.

The commission did not specify what the second officer did to violate policy, but it found that the officer violated policy in every aspect they examined, from the initial contact with Ford through the use of both lethal and nonlethal force. The second officer was found in violation in only one area — an earlier drawing of a gun before the final use of deadly force.

The panel’s report with further details was expected to be released later in the day.

Ford’s mother, Tritobia Ford, pleaded to commissioners amid hours of public comment at the meeting to find the officers’ actions improper.

She said her son was mentally ill and questioned how bad tactics prior to the shooting made it justified.

“Because he walked away … they killed him,” Ford said. “They got mad, they got angry. Ezell did not understand. Ezell had the thought process of an 8 or a 10-year-old. He was a baby, he was my baby.”

The commission emphasized that any decision on officer discipline will be made by Chief Charlie Beck, who found both officers justified in his own report, and that any decision on criminal charges would come from the district attorney.

Commission members were surrounded by questioning protesters after the meeting. One commissioner, Paula Madison, told them, “What you were looking for, you got.”

Attorney Steven Lerman, who represents Ford’s family, said after the commission decision that he believed both officers acted outside policy. For the officer who initiated the contact, the decision was a “no-brainer,” he said.

He said he believes both officers were complicit and that the other officer could have stopped his partner any time.

“It is a pitiful example of police gone wrong,” Lerman said. “They never should have stopped the guy.”

The LAPD’s independent watchdog also found both officers justified.

Beck and the watchdog found that evidence supported the officers’ contention that Ford was shot after trying to grab an officer’s gun. That evidence included Ford’s DNA on the gun. A previously released autopsy report appeared to support the officers’ account.

According to the LAPD, Ford was acting suspiciously when he caught officers’ attention in August. He was accused of knocking one officer to the ground and grappling for the officer’s holstered weapon when the second officer fired two shots.

The fallen officer pulled out a backup gun and shot Ford in the back, Beck said last year.