Ezell Ford: Protests In South LA After LAPD Reportedly Clears Officers In Fatal Shooting

LOS ANGELES (CNS/FOX 11) - Fewer than two dozen protesters gathered Saturday in South Los Angeles to decry findings by the Los Angeles police chief and inspector general that two officers' shooting and killing of an unarmed man last summer was justified.

The protest comes a day after several news agencies were given findings that LAPD officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas were justified in opening fire on Ezell Ford.

Those findings reportedly indicate that Ford's DNA was found on the officers, along with scratches apparently inflicted by Ford on the officers' hands, and on one holster.

News of the reports' contents broke late Friday, and the city was quiet overnight. Less than 20 people gathered about 3 p.m. today at the intersection of 65th Street at Broadway, near to where Ford was shot, said Officer Mike Lopez of the LAPD's Media Relations Section.

In three days, the Los Angeles Police Commission is set to consider the findings of two investigations into the Aug. 11 fatal police shooting of Ford.

The results of the Los Angeles Police Department's investigation into the shooting, and a concurrent probe by the department's independent watchdog, Alex Bustamante, have not been released. And Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff has publicly disputed any suggestion that a decision had already been made on the officers' fate.

To say "anything has been decided by anyone is unfair to the Ford family,'' Soboroff told news outlets.

The shooting of the 25-year-old black man in the 200 block of West 65th Street on August 11 sparked months of protests and calls by community activists for a transparent investigation.

Wampler, a 12-year veteran of the LAPD, and Villegas, an eight-year veteran, were both reassigned to administrative duties afterward.

According to The Times, the department found that Ford was fighting for control of one officer's gun, noting that Ford's DNA was found on the weapon.

Investigators also found that Wampler's hands were scratched, as was the holster for Wampler's gun.

Police have said the officers were approaching Ford, who was making "suspicious movements,'' when he turned and "grabbed one of the officers.''

"During the struggle, they fell to the ground and the individual (Ford) tried to remove the officer's handgun from its holster,'' according to the LAPD's official account of the shooting. ``The partner officer then fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon at the individual.''

According to The Times, Bustamante also found the shooting to be justified, but he faulted officers for how they approached Ford in the first place. He concluded that it was unclear if the officers had sufficient justification to approach Ford and and try to detain him, The Times reported.

Autopsy results showed Ford was shot three times -- in the right side of his back, the right arm and the right abdomen. The gunshot wounds to the back and the abdomen were both fatal, according to the report.

Ford was pronounced dead in an operating room at California Hospital Medical Center.

The autopsy report noted that the gunshot wound on Ford's back had "muzzle imprint,'' indicating the shot was fired at close range, and that Ford had some marijuana in his system.

The family's attorney, Steven Lerman, said Ford was "mentally challenged,'' a fact known to the officers, and was not doing anything wrong when he was stopped. He also alleged the two officers involved in the shooting were "poorly trained'' and have a documented "pattern and practice'' of reckless conduct on the streets.

Ford's family filed a $75 million federal lawsuit against the city last September, contending that Ford was shot while complying with police orders to lay on the ground. The family also filed a complaint in state court in March.

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