Ezell Ford's parents sue LAPD, this time in state court, over son's death

Ezell Ford's parents file new lawsuit against LAPD officers, allege actions were "motivated" by his race

The parents of a mentally ill man fatally shot by Los Angeles police officers last summer in South L.A. filed a new wrongful death lawsuit Friday, this time in state court.

The allegations outlined in Friday's lawsuit mirror those Edsell and Tritobia Ford made in a federal lawsuit they filed last fall in connection with the Aug. 11 death of their son, Ezell Ford.

The state suit, however, also alleges that the actions of the two officers who shot Ford were "motivated" by the fact that Ford was black and their "prejudice, disdain and contempt for African Americans or persons of black skin tone."

The federal suit alleges the Los Angeles Police Department maintained policies and practices that allowed racial profiling and the use of excessive force against African Americans. Attorneys for the two officers denied those claims in a response filed with the court, as did attorneys for the city of Los Angeles.

Attorneys for the officers -- identified by the LAPD as Sharlton Wampler, who is Asian American, and Antonio Villegas, who is Latino -- could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Ford's death came amid a wave of nationwide protests over the high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of police and was frequently invoked during local protests that stemmed from the killings. Ford died just two days after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. 

The state lawsuit filed Friday alleges the two officers involved in Ford's death used excessive force, were negligent and violated his civil rights when they shot and killed him. Like the federal suit, the state case also names the LAPD and the city of Los Angeles, alleging the department was negligent in "hiring, training or failing to supervise" the officers.

"Ezell Ford was subjected to an excessive amount of force where he had committed no criminal act, engaged in no suspicious criminal activity and was seized without probable cause," the state lawsuit says.

The Fords are seeking unspecified damages. Their attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. 

Ford, 25, was walking to the family's home on West 65th Street shortly after 8 p.m. on Aug. 11, when two LAPD gang officers got out of their car to speak with him, according to the LAPD's account of the incident. He looked at the officers, walked away and attempted to conceal his hands, according to police.

The officers followed Ford to a driveway, where LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Ford crouched between a car and a row of bushes. As one of the officers reached for him, Ford forced him to the ground and grabbed his gun, according to authorities.

The officer yelled to his partner that his gun had been taken, Beck said, and the partner fired two rounds at Ford, the LAPD says. The first officer used a backup weapon to reach around Ford's body and shoot him in the back, leaving a muzzle imprint.

One woman, who said she was a friend of Ford's family, told The Times that she witnessed part of the encounter and saw no struggle between Ford and the officers. 

Both the federal and state lawsuits allege that the officers involved knew Ford was "mentally challenged." The department has said there were no initial indications that either of the officers recognized Ford when they approached him before the shooting.

Follow @katemather for more coverage of Ezell Ford's death.

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