Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck must answer questions posed by attorneys for the family of an unarmed, mentally ill black man who was shot dead by LAPD officers last summer, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle denied a protective order sought by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, which would have barred lawyers for the family of Ezell Ford from deposing Beck about circumstances surrounding the death. Ford family attorney Federico Sayre said he expects to question Beck for two hours next month in the chief's office at LAPD headquarters downtown.
Sayre said that as far as he knew, the only other time a sitting Los Angeles police chief was deposed in a civil lawsuit was his own questioning of Daryl Gates in the Rodney King civil case in 1994.
Ford's family filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit last winter against the LAPD, alleging Ford was shot in the back as he lay on the ground.
According to the lawsuit, Officer Sharlton Wampler and partner Antonio Villegas -- who are named plaintiffs -- engaged in an unlawful search and seizure of Ford, denied him due process, used excessive force and violated his civil rights.
Ford, 25, was shot on 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 Wampler's weapon.
Beck and the department's independent watchdog, Inspector General Alex Bustamante, 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.
However, the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that Wampler violated department policy, but Villegas was justified in firing his weapon at Ford to protect his partner. In its ruling, the commission rejected Beck's finding that Wampler had adhered to policy. Community activists have urged Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to file criminal charges against Wampler.