The LAPD's civilian watchdog Tuesday publicly urged anyone who saw last month's fatal police shooting of a mentally ill man in South Los Angeles to come forward, saying he was "helpless" in his investigation without witnesses' accounts.
Alex Bustmante, who works independently of the LAPD and reports to the civilian-led Police Commission, issued a statement Tuesday seeking more information on the Aug. 11 death of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old man who was shot and killed by LAPD gang officers.
Conflicting accounts have emerged regarding Ford's death. LAPD officials said preliminary information indicated that Ford tackled one of the officers and reached for his gun, prompting both officers to open fire. But a friend of Ford's family told The Times that she witnessed part of the incident and saw no struggle.
In his statement, Bustamante noted the accounts about the shooting varied "wildly." But he said his office had only managed to contact
one witness, despite information "that multiple witnesses exist."
"To get a complete picture of the events of that night, however, I need witnesses to come foward," he said. "But I remain powerless without witness accounts of the incident to shed additional light on what occurred."
In an interview, Bustamante said his investigators canvassed West 65th Street, where Ford was shot, but would return with fliers Tuesday evening. His office, along with LAPD officials, have also attended community meetings to plead for help with the investigation.
LAPD officials and civil rights activists have also urged witnesses to come forward.
Bustmante emphasized that his office operates separately from the LAPD, and was focused on a thorough, impartial investigation into the shooting. Anyone with information, he said, could contact his office directly.
"In order to do a proper investigation, you need all the information," he told The TImes. "And if you're not getting all the relevant information, it limits the investigation you can do. That's why it's so very important for the community members who saw or videotaped the incident to come forward.
Anyone with information about Ezell Ford's death was asked to contact the LAPD or the inspector general's office, which can be reached directly at (213) 482-6833.