Originally published on January 1, 2015, at NationofChange.org
Under pressure from the mayor of Los Angeles, the LAPD finally released Ezell Ford’s autopsy report to the public. According to the report, an LAPD officer shot Ford in the right arm and right side while a second officer shot him in the back at close range. Although the officers claim Ford attempted to grab one of their guns, witnesses do not corroborate their account.
At approximately 8:10pm on August 11, officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas of LAPD’s Newton Area Gang Enforcement Detail saw Ford walking down the sidewalk and decided to conduct an investigative stop. According to an LAPD press release, Wampler and Villegas exited their vehicle and attempted to talk to Ford who continued walking while concealing his hands. As the officers approached Ford, he allegedly grabbed one of them and a struggle ensued.
After Ford and the officer fell to the ground, Ford allegedly tried to pull the officer’s gun out of its holster. The other officer shot Ford in the right arm and side as the officer on the ground produced his back-up piece and fired a single round at close range into Ford’s back. Wampler and Villegas handcuffed Ford and waited for an ambulance. Ford died in the operating room.
According to witnesses, Dorene Henderson and Ford’s cousin did not see Ford struggling with the officers before they shot him. Henderson had crossed the street in front of Ford when she heard someone shout, “Get down, get down.”
Henderson saw one of the officers exit the car before hearing a gunshot. Neighbors began yelling at the officers, “He’s got mental problems.”
Then Henderson reportedly witnessed the driver exit the police car before hearing two more shots. Refusing to identify himself by his real name, Ford’s cousin watched the shooting and asserted that Ford had been complying with the officers when they shot him.
According to the autopsy report, Ford had several abrasions to the back of his left hand, forearm, and elbow. According to Lt. Ellis Imaizumi of the LAPD, Wampler and Villegas sustained minor scrapes during the altercation but did not require hospitalization.
Accusing police of racial profiling and using excessive force against their mentally ill son, Ford’s parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD. Diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, Ford had a trace amount of marijuana in his system at the time of his death.
Officers Wampler and Villegas have been reassigned to administrative duties. The district attorney’s office, the LAPD, and the office of inspector general are conducting separate investigations to determine whether the shooting violated department policy or warrants criminal charges against Wampler and Villegas.
Due to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, the LAPD placed an investigative hold on Ford’s autopsy report. Although several people admitted to witnessing the incident, police officials said investigators had difficulty tracking down people who saw the shooting. The South Central Neighborhood Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for Councilman Curren Price to release the autopsy. Last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered the LAPD to release Ford’s autopsy by the end of the year.
“I ordered the autopsy’s release because transparency is key to the trust between the LAPD and the people they serve,” Garcetti said. “That trust is the foundation of a powerful partnership… It’s important to all of us that this partnership continues.”
Ford is one of at least 16 unarmed black people killed by the police in 2014.