An attorney for the family of Ezell Ford said the autopsy of the 25-year old shot dead by police in South L.A. shows that officers were almost “animalistic” during the confrontation.
LAPD officials say Ford was shot three times, including once in the back at close range, during a violent struggle over an officer's gun in August. But the Ford family’s attorney, Steven Lerman, said the officers zeroed in on Ford unnecessarily on Aug. 11, the night he died.
“They had nothing better to do,” Lerman told NBC4.
The report's release comes after a wave of nationwide protests over several recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York.
At a news conference Monday releasing the report, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck offered a narrative of the incident based on the two police officers' accounts. He cautioned that the picture was incomplete because the internal investigation would take several more months and no eyewitnesses had spoken to police.
Ford, who was mentally ill, was also shot in the right side and right arm, according to the autopsy .
On Monday, people gathered in Leimert Park and in front of LAPD headquarters invoked the deaths of Garner and Brown while focusing on the disclosure that Ford, who was also black, was shot in the back.
Lerman said the autopsy report strengthens the family's civil lawsuit against the Police Department and the city.
Ford's mother, Tritobia Ford, was overwhelmed with tears and anger when they went over the report together, Lerman said.
"Anything he says is self-serving," Lerman said of Beck. "What the report shows is that Ezell was shot in the back and killed."
Ford’s grandmother, Dorothy Clark, told NBC4 that she never thought her grandson would be die in a confrontation with police, given the gang element in her neighborhood.
“I thought the gangs would kill him. I thought police would protect him,” she said.
But experts on police shootings said the fact that Ford was shot in the back does not necessarily mean the officers acted improperly.
Ed Obayashi, an Inyo County sheriff's deputy who is also an attorney and an expert on police use of force, said that while some people may be troubled by the fact that Ford was shot in the back, "That's not unusual. It happens all the time."
According to Beck, Ford forced a police officer to the ground and grabbed the officer's gun. The officer yelled to his partner that his gun had been taken, Beck said, and the partner fired two rounds at Ford. The first officer used a backup weapon to reach around Ford's body and shoot him in the back.
Beck seconded policing experts who said that autopsy reports are of limited value by themselves. But he also said the report did not contradict the officers' statements that one of them was wrestling with Ford for his handgun.