Civil rights activists announced Monday that they will begin a recall effort against Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey after she failed to bring charges against the two police officers responsible for the shooting death of Ezell Ford.
The Los Angeles Times reports that author and activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson said at a Los Angeles news conference: “This is a last-ditch measure. Ezell Ford was not the only one. That was the tipping point, but you have a pattern here.”
Ford, 25, was killed by police officers who stopped him as he was walking to his South L.A. home in August 2014, just days after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and his death became part of the national conversation on policing in black and Latino neighborhoods.
Lacey announced Tuesday that the officers would not be facing charges and released a 28-page report outlining the findings of her office’s investigation, which said that the officers acted appropriately and in self-defense after Ford allegedly tried to grab one of the officers’ guns.
Hutchinson, several clergymen and other activists gathered at the Los Angeles headquarters of the National Action Network for the news event Wednesday and acknowledged that launching a successful recall was a “gigantic task” but not unprecedented.
They cited Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as an example. The former bodybuilder and movie star was elected governor of California during the historic 2003 recall election that saw Democratic Gov. Gray Davis get ousted following a wave of anti-government sentiment.
Lacey was elected to a second term as district attorney after running unopposed last year, the first time in 60 years that a top prosecutor had gone unchallenged. According to the Times, when asked about the proposed recall, she said in a statement that she understands the community’s frustration.
“However, as district attorney, I took an oath to follow the law. The physical evidence and the law support my decision in this case,” Lacey said.
Lacey faced criticism from civil rights activists and Ford’s family after taking more than two years to announce her decision in the case.
As previously reported on The Root, the report published Tuesday outlined the events of the night of Aug. 11, 2014, that led to Ford’s death.
Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas were working on a gang-enforcement detail when they saw Ford walking down the street toward his home. Wampler told Villegas that they should stop Ford and “at least talk to him.”
Wampler called out to Ford, who ignored him and kept walking toward his house. Because Ford was walking with his hands in his pockets, Wampler said, he had reason to believe that Ford might be carrying narcotics or a dangerous weapon. He told Ford to take his hands out of his pockets, and Villegas confirmed in his statement that Ford complied.
Wampler continued to follow Ford as he walked up a driveway, and grabbed him by the shoulder. The two reportedly got into a scuffle, and Ford allegedly grabbed for Wampler’s gun. Villegas shot Ford first; then Wampler shot him as well. Ford subsequently died of his wounds.
In 2015 the Los Angeles Police Commission faulted Wampler in the shooting, saying that his handling of the encounter was flawed and led to the fatal shooting, but Lacey’s office determined that the physical evidence corroborated the officers’ accounts that Ford knocked one of them to the ground and tried to grab his gun. The commission also criticized both officers’ decisions to pull their guns when they did.
Peter Bibring, the director of police practices for the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement that the prosecutor’s report “raises more questions about whether the Los Angeles district attorney’s office provides any meaningful check on police shootings.”
“Since 2000,” Bibring said, “only a single police officer in Southern California has faced criminal charges for shooting a member of the public.”
The activists said at their news conference Wednesday that they have drafted a statement detailing the recall. They plan to deliver that statement to Lacey, and they will begin gathering signatures Thursday.
The Rev. Oliver Buie of Holman United Methodist Church said that Lacey “seems to close her eyes at these shootings and tends to basically stand with the police no matter what happens.”
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.