Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old mentally disabled man from South Los Angeles, was walking near his home Aug. 11, 2014, when he was confronted by Los Angeles police officers for what they described as an “investigative stop.”
During the encounter, Ford was shot and killed by Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas. They claimed that Ford attempted to grab Wampler’s gun during a struggle, forcing Wampler to draw his backup weapon and shoot Ford in the back. Villegas also fired at Ford.
But witnesses dispute the officers’ account and say that Ford was not struggling. An autopsy report showed that Ford had been shot three times: once in his back on the right, once on his right side and once in his right arm.
Ford’s death occurred two days after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Brown’s death, along with the deaths of Eric Garner and John Crawford III, at the hands of police sparked protests against police brutality across the country. And while Ford’s death may not have garnered as much attention as the other cases, his life did matter.
Here’s an update on the case.
The Los Angeles Police Commission says the shooting violated Police Department policy. While Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck declared the police shooting of Ford justified, the Los Angeles Police Commission, an independent civilian review board, declared in June that the officers didn’t have any reason to stop Ford and that Wampler was unjustified in shooting him.
Villegas, Wampler’s partner, was mostly cleared by the commission, although the review board did question the officer’s decision to draw his gun early in the encounter with Ford. However, the board did rule that he was ultimately justified in shooting Ford to protect his partner.
Whatever discipline the officers may face is now up to the police chief. But a recent video in which Beck expresses his support for police officers has led Ford’s mother, Tritobia Ford, to believe that the officers won’t get more than a “slap on the wrist,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Tritobia Ford wants a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into her son’s death. Days after the police commission ruled Ezell Ford’s shooting unjustified, activists called for criminal charges to be filed against the officers. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has said that the case is under review. Tritobia Ford also wants the Department of Justice to investigate her son’s death. “This needs to go to a higher authority,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
Ezell Ford’s family has filed two wrongful death lawsuits. In September 2014, his family filed a $75 million wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the Los Angeles Police Department and the two officers for excessive force and civil rights violations.
“Within moments, defendant Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas intentionally and/or negligently fatally shot unarmed decedent Ezell Ford, multiple times, with their firearms,” the lawsuit stated. The suit also describes the “use of excessive force” as “despicable conduct.”
In March the family also filed a lawsuit in California state court against the city, the LAPD and the two officers for wrongful death, civil rights violations and negligence.
Phillip Jackson is The Root’s summer intern and will be a junior at Hampton University in the fall. Follow him on Twitter.