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Police Commission to weigh fatal LAPD shooting of Ezell Ford

Police Commission to decide Tuesday whether LAPD officers were within policy in fatal shooting of Ezell Ford

The civilian board that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department will decide Tuesday whether two officers violated department policy when they shot and killed Ezell Ford last summer in South L.A.

The Police Commission’s decision will punctuate a nearly 10-month review of the fatal shooting of the mentally ill 25-year-old, whose death became a local rallying cry against police killings of black men. The deadly Aug. 11 encounter strained tensions between South L.A. and the LAPD, which was criticized not only for the officers’ actions but for what some residents described as a lack of transparency in the department's investigation.

In an unusual move, police commissioners are only scheduled to hear public comments Tuesday morning at their weekly meeting before going into closed session to deliberate the Ford shooting. The public meeting begins at 9:30 a.m.

Commissioners will weigh recommendations from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the department’s independent inspector general, who both found the officers' were justified in shooting Ford after investigators turned up evidence indicating he grabbed for an officer's holstered gun during a struggle, according to sources familiar with the matter.

But the inspector general, Alex Bustamante, has raised concerns about whether the officers had a legal justification to make the stop and concluded that their tactics were inappropriate, the sources said.

Even if the commission finds that Ford posed a deadly threat, it will have to grapple with whether the officers’ decisions and actions beforehand were so flawed they led to a fatal confrontation that didn’t need to occur.

After The Times reported the recommendations made by Beck and Bustamante, protesters camped outside Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Windsor Square home, demanding the mayor take action over Ford’s death.

The demonstrators, part of the Black Lives Matter movement, have called on Garcetti to fire Beck and for the commission to make its decision in public. The commission deliberates behind closed doors when deciding whether shootings were justified.

Garcetti said in a statement that he was confident the commission would “conduct an impartial and fair-minded review” of the shooting.

Ford’s mother, Tritobia, has also criticized the LAPD for not releasing more information about her son’s death. She said she shared the same concerns as the inspector general about why the officers approached her son, and that she wanted the U.S. Justice Department to investigate her son’s death.

An FBI spokeswoman told The Times that federal officials "will await the outcome of the investigative process at the local level to determine if further action is warranted at the federal level."

Ford, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was walking along West 65th Street near his family’s home when two officers, Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, approached him. The LAPD has not publicly said why the officers stopped Ford.

Follow @katemather and @joelrubin for more coverage of the Ezell Ford shooting.

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