Killing of Ezell Ford by LAPD Evokes Rising Tension at South L.A. Meeting
Tensions heightened on Tuesday night as residents and activists grilled Los Angeles police officials with questions regarding the fatal shooting by LAPD officers of Ezell Ford, an unarmed mentally challenged African American, on August 11, 2014.
Meeting at the Paradise Baptist Church in South L.A. for three hours, more than 200 people shouted and interrupted Police Chief Charlie Beck, demanding answers for the killing that happened over one week ago, reported the Los Angeles Times. The crowd grew more and more aggravated by Beck’s refusal to release information about why they stopped Ford and what the officers' names were who were involved in the incident.
The Police Chief told the crowd that it is important that they have all the facts before releasing information regarding the fatal occurrence. As the attendees to the public hearing groaned in dismay at Beck’s unwillingness to release more information, he exclaimed, "Wait, wait. Stop, please, I will not give you half a story... We have to find out all the facts."
KCAL9 reported that the LAPD was joined at the meeting by the inspector general, the police commission president, and the District Attorney’s office. Conflicting stories have emerged about the violent altercation between the police and the 25-year-old Ford, who according to his parents was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. The LAPD contends that Ford tried to tackle one of the officers and reached for the officer's gun, prompting both officers to open fire. Contrarily, a Ford family friend told the Times that she witnessed part of the incident and did not observe Ford tackling the officer or reaching for his gun.
Civil rights activist and community leader Earl Ofari Hutchinson said at the meeting that it was their right to find out who the officers were that shot Ford. "We want to know if there's a prior history of complaints or misconduct, if this officer has been written up, if this officer has been disciplined," he said. "You then determine if this is truly an isolated event, unfortunate and tragic, or if there may be a history for one or more of the officers involved."
The California Supreme Court has determined that, provided there are no credible threats, police departments are obligated to release the names of officer’s involved in shootings. LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith explained that the LAPD has not completed its "threat assessment" in the Ford case. The department, according to the Times, will look at "any kind of threats against the officer," including any made using social media.
Breitbart News reported on Tuesday that at this point the LAPD has not released the autopsy report of Ezell Ford. Attorney for Ezell’s family Steven A. Lerman said his clients are planning to do an independent autopsy, claiming that they are suspicious the LAPD would not provide an open investigation.
Police Chief Beck assured the crowd that the facts will all come out, but not until the investigation goes through "multiple levels of review." He added, "Of course I am very concerned about this issue — as is the media, as is the public, as is the entire Los Angeles Police Department."