Los Angeles

”Muzzle Imprint” Found in Ezell Ford Autopsy

An unarmed, mentally ill man was shot three times by police officers during a scuffle in South Los Angeles earlier this year, an autopsy released Monday showed.

Ezell Ford, 25, was shot when police confronted him Aug. 11 on a street near his home. Officers said they shot him as he tried to grab a gun during a struggle.

The report showed Ford died in the operating room after being shot three times. One of the three, a non-fatal shot, struck Ford in the right arm. The two fatal shots struck him in the lower right side and the right back.

The fatal wound to the back had a muzzle imprint surrounding the entrance, the report showed, indicating the shot was fired at very close range.

A small amount of marijuana was found in Ford's system.

The autopsy was released after a months-long delay at the request of LAPD, after Chief Charlie Beck said the department needed more time to look for witnesses and investigate the circumstances of what quickly became a controversial shooting.

Family members say Ford was mentally ill and was harmless. A friend has said she witnessed the confrontation and didn’t see Ford struggle. His family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department and the two officers who shot him.

They also filed a $75 million claim — a precursor to a state lawsuit — against the city.

The family lawsuit said the two gang officers — Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas — knew Ford from the neighborhood and were aware he had mental problems.

The controversy surrounding the shooting led to several protests in the city, and some protesters said they will seek disciplinary action if the officers who shot Ford were found to have use "reckless deadly force," according to a news release.

Police Chief Charlie Beck has said the Ford case has been a "difficult investigation" for the department.

"There is nothing in the coroner's report that is inconsistent with officers' version of events," Beck said at a press conference Monday. He again called for witnesses and said some have been uncooperative with the ongoing police investigation.

"We will find out what happened on that August night," he said.

Beck placed the city's nearly 10,000 police officers on a heightened tactical alert in advance of the report's release.

Community activists rallied Sunday near the spot in South Los Angeles where the unarmed man was shot and killed by police officers last summer.

Also Sunday, about 35 demonstrators stood near Los Angeles's City Hall, across the street from the Los Angeles Police Administrative Building Sunday, to show their support for law enforcement.

Protests across the country have denounced police actions, after several highly publicized deaths of black men in 2014, and grand juries' subsequent decisions not to prosecute the officers. Those protesters often proclaimed that "black lives matter," but the pro-police group's point was that "all lives matter."

Ezell Ford's autopsy showed he was struck by three gunshots.

"Because of all the recent negative support from the media, we're out here to support them (law enforcement) today," said Petros Frangos, one of the event's organizers.

"We need to stand together and be a family. And we never turn our back on our own," added another supporter, who identified himself only as Catholic priest Father Dan, who said he had previously worked in law enforcement.

Mayor Eric Garcetti had ordered the so-called "security hold" placed on the autopsy findings by LAPD be lifted before the end of the year.

Asher Klein, Willian Avila and Jason Kandel contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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