Ezell Ford Case: Calling For Criminal Charges

(FOX 11 / CNS) Community activists plan today to urge District Attorney Jackie Lacey to file criminal charges against a Los Angeles police officer found by the Police Commission to have violated department policy in the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford, an unarmed black man suffering from mental illness.

From Phil Shuman:

If you visit the scene of the Ezell Ford shooting at 65th and Broadway in South LA, almost a year later, a mural, candles, a teddy bear, a baseball cap, candles, they're all still there. Reminders. It took that long for the civilian Los Angeles Police Commission to find one of the two officers was ‘‘out of policy ‘' in the shooting last August of the 25-year-old man whose mother says was mentally ill.

That decision was a small bit of good news for his grieving mother, and many in the community, but there are others that don't believe that's enough. They want District Attorney Jackie Lacey to file a criminal case against the officer who was found ‘‘out of policy'' in addition to whatever administrative penalty LAPD Chief Charlie Beck decides on, if any. Earlier, Beck's departmental investigation concluded both officers were justified in shooting, a decision the Police Commission, his civilian bosses appointed by the Mayor, disagreed with.

I spoke with Reverend KW Tulluss, of the National Action Network, Al Sharpton's organization. He called on Lacey to act, saying ‘'We ‘re asking that the DA do the right thing. We saw on Friday, an officer charged in the death of Alicia Thompson and convicted. No one person is above the law ." That was for assault; this would be for shooting someone. Much different A prosecution like that hasn't happened in this county, for any law enforcement agency, since 2001. Beck, who was to hold his own news conference yesterday as is his custom after the Police Commission meeting but cancelled it abruptly, did issue a short video message only to his officer today saying in essence ‘'I support you." It was supposed to be internal, but once someone leaked it and it ended up on YouTube, the LAPD decided to give it out to the news media and by extension the public.

So what will D.A. Lacey do? She isn't saying, of course, simply issuing a statement from her office saying, in summary, ‘‘it's under review ‘'. Her people have to believe they can get a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt in order to file charges. History has shown here and elsewhere that no matter how upsetting a given incident might be, if police are in essence doing their job and claim they feared for their lives, it's very tough to get a conviction.

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The Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday ruled that one officer violated department policy, but another was justified in firing his weapon. In ruling that Los Angeles police Officer Sharlton Wampler's use of deadly force in the death of Ezell Ford last August violated LAPD policy, the commission rejected police Chief Charlie Beck's finding that Wampler had adhered to policy.

The commission ruled there was no reason to have detained Ford in the first place and that Wampler badly mishandled the encounter, leading to the fatal confrontation. It said its ruling was based on the "totality" of the circumstances, not just the moment when force was used.

Wampler's partner, Antonio Villegas, was found to have been much less culpable, with the panel objecting to his initial decision to draw his weapon early in the confrontation but upholding his decision to fire at Ford to protect Wampler.

The five-member commission deliberated behind closed doors for several hours before announcing its decision. In a raucous public meeting beforehand, commissioners heard dozens of people urging that both officers be held accountable for Ford's death.

Link To Soboroff Comments On Ezell Ford

Ford, 25, was fatally shot by police Aug. 11, 2014, near 65th Street and Broadway. Police said the officers approached Ford for acting suspiciously, and he lunged at one of them and began trying to grab an officer's weapon. The officer was Wampler.

Beck and the department's independent watchdog, Inspector General Alex Bustamante, had each concluded in separate reports that the officers were justified in their actions, although Bustamante faulted the tactics used by one of the officers in approaching Ford in the first place.

The Police Commission, which has the final say on whether the officers acted properly, met behind closed doors for more than three hours reviewing the investigations and concluded that some of the officers' actions were within department policy and some were not.

Beck will ultimately decide what discipline, if any, Wampler will face.

The District Attorney's Office will review the shooting to determine if any criminal charges are warranted.

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