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Tensions Boil Over Before And After LAPD Ezell Ford Decision

Sara Tiano |
June 9, 2015 | 3:52 p.m. PDT

Senior News Editor

Sara Tiano / Neon Tommy
Sara Tiano / Neon Tommy
One of the two LAPD officers involved in last year's fatal shooting of Ezell Ford will face further disciplinary review by the Los Angeles Police Department after the L.A. police commission's investigation determined that the officer acted "out of policy." According to the LA Times, the officer found at fault is Sharlton Wampler.

READ MORE: LAPD Fatally Shoots South L.A. Man During Investigative Stop

Ford, who was 25 years old when he was killed, was walking near his home in South L.A. when he was stopped by Wampler and his partner that night, Antonio Villegas. The LAPD said that a struggle ensued between Ford and the officers, leading to the officers shooting the unarmed young man, but Ford's friends and family say that story doesn't make sense; they say Ford would never have reached for an officer's weapon, as he's been accused of doing. 

READ MORE: LAPD Seeks Witnesses To Ezell Ford Shooting

"What you came here for, you got," Police Commission Vice President Paula Madison said to the dozens of supporters and protestors at the meeting; the crowd, however, erupted in discontent when they learned no immediate punishment was being levied. 

READ MORE: Autopsy Report Of Ezell Ford's Body Released

The officer found to be out of LAPD policy will be up for further disciplinary review by Chief Beck. What happens next is up to Beck; he can choose to retain the officer or fire him, or put him on paid or unpaid leave.

After the decision was announced, protesters called vehemently for an investigation by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. Her investigation would be independent from today's decision by the police commission. 


Sara Tiano / Neon Tommy
Sara Tiano / Neon Tommy
Cries for Justice

Members of the commission heard nearly three hours of public comments before retreating behind closed doors for deliberation. The meeting was so full that overflow room had to be opened to accommodate the dozens of attendees. In addition to Ford’s friends and family, members of the Black Lives Matter movement and other activist groups spoke out. 

“Ezell has been stopped many times before, and he lived,” Ford’s mother, Tritobia, cried during the two minutes she was allotted to speak her piece. “Those officers did the right thing; these officers did wrong."

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck indicated last week that he believed the decision to shoot Ford was justified, according to a report by the LA Times. In the same report, the Times said LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante agreed that the decision to open fire was justified, but that he questioned the officer’s actions leading up to the shooting, including whether they should have stopped Ford at all.

“Unjustifiable stop, justifiable killing? Mind boggling,” one commenter said, to murmurs of support from the audience. 

Pedro Baez of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable urged the commission to delay their decision. He claimed he knew of three or four witnesses to the shooting whose stories contradict that of the officers. Baez argued that this evidence should be part of the decision and of public record. 

Most of the other commenters took a more emotionally charged approach, accusing the LAPD of systemic racism and imploring members of the commission to imagine having their child gunned down by people who are supposed to be their protectors.

Ford’s mother reminded the commission of her late son’s mental illnesses, which she said affected his judgment.

“Ezell did not understand. Ezell had the thought process of an eight- or ten-year-old,” Tritobia Ford said of her son, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, according to multiple reports. 

“He was a baby. He was my baby,” she cried.

Sara Tiano / Neon Tommy
Sara Tiano / Neon Tommy
“No justice, no peace”

Unsurprisingly given the context of the case and the emotional nature of the meeting, tensions boiled over both inside and out. One of the lead organizers for Dignity and Power Now, Evan Bunch, filled out comment cards with the names of other victims of officer-involved shootings and scattered them across the room during his speech. Upon leaving the meeting, Bunch was arrested within LAPD headquarters and allegedly dragged along the hallway outside. About a dozen people ran out of the meeting to witness the struggle and found Bunch handcuffed and prone between three officers, with his hat on the ground next to him and streaks of dirt on his beige pants that had been clean moments before.

A small protest erupted as the people who rushed out of the meeting confronted the officers holding Bunch. Backup officers arrived, strapping on riot helmets. After just a few minutes of dispute, the officers dragged Bunch, still on the ground, back into the building. Though most of the protestors were barred from reentering the meeting, one talked his way back in and confronted the commissioners with the information.

“Somebody’s been killed, and you arrest someone for throwing paper? How does that make sense?” the protestor asked. At one point, the audience began chanting “Let Evan go now!” 

Another protestor admonished the commission for a lack of empathy.

“You’re not showing compassion for the situations that come before you in this space,” said the final commenter of the meeting. “You guys really need to make some better decisions. You really need to reflect on how you’re making your decisions and who you’re impacting, because you’re also impacting your own community.”  

Despite the tense and largely negative rhetoric, Ford’s mother, though grieving and distraught, maintained hope and optimism right up until the end.

“Please, please,” Tritobia Ford begged the commission. “I have faith in you yet.”

Contact Senior News Editor Sara Tiano here.



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