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Ezell Ford's family expected to attend First AME Church services

Ezell Ford family due to attend L.A. church service today as part of national 'black lives matter' observance

The family of a mentally ill man fatally shot by police in South Los Angeles was expected to attend Sunday services at First AME Church as part of a national daylong observance against police confrontations that have resulted in the deaths of unarmed black men.

Relatives of Ezell Ford Jr., 25, who was shot Aug. 11, were due to attend the 10 a.m. service at the church, which is among the largest and most important black churches in Southern California. 

Parishioners have been asked to wear black to all Sunday services to demonstrate that “black lives matter” at a time of growing national criticism of police shootings.

Conflicting accounts have emerged about the killing of Ford. Police say officers got out of their car and tried to talk to Ford as he was walking along West 65th Street near Broadway. When the officers got closer, police said, Ford reached for one of the officers' guns, prompting his partner to open fire, the spokesman said.

But a friend of Ford's family told The Times she witnessed part of the encounter and saw no struggle between Ford and the officers. It is also unclear why officers initially approached Ford.

On Sunday, protesters gathered in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and other cities across the country to demonstrate against police brutality. Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, but there were at least 45 people arrested in San Francisco on suspicion of such crimes as vandalism, failure to disperse and resisting arrest.

Earlier in the day, police took down effigies of three black victims of lynching that were hung on the UC Berkeley campus Saturday morning.

Investigators believe the cardboard cutouts of life-sized photographs of lynching victims were connected to a smaller protest in Berkeley at noon. Police don't know the motive or who hanged the effigies and are investigating.

The latest demonstrations came after a New York grand jury declined this month to indict New York police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Eric Garner’s death in July. Garner, an unarmed Staten Island man, died after the officer applied an alleged chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes.

There have been near-daily protests around the country since the grand jury’s decision.

Just nine days earlier, a St. Louis County grand jury failed to indict Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. Brown died Aug. 9.

carlos.lozano@latimes.com

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