His parents said they have been living in the same South L.A. neighborhood for the past 15 years. In that time, they said, neighbors and police officers in the area have come to know their son.
The Fords said everyone in the neighborhood, including police, also knew that he was diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
So when they heard about the shooting, they were confused.
"You would have thought that anybody else would have harmed him," Ezell Ford Sr. said. "The last person you would think is a police officer."
The Fords recalled a younger son who played football and basketball.
They said their son wanted become a basketball star. He would often spend time with friends and attend school functions such as dances.
"He had spunk," his dad said.
But at 18, Ezell Ford began to drift away. He didn't socialize and was often sad, his parents said.
Doctors later diagnosed him with depression, Ezell Ford Sr. said.
"I couldn't understand it," he said. "I don't know what really triggered it."
Most recently, he was mostly a drifter, grabbing coffee and cigarettes at a corner store and going on long walks.
Smith said police investigators are asking eyewitnesses or anyone with video footage of the incident to come forward. As did Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, who has requested a meeting with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck regarding the incident.