Community members and activists plan to hold a rally Sunday afternoon in front of the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters downtown to protest the fatal police shooting of an unarmed, mentally ill man.
The rally is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the intersection of Main and First streets. Activists staged a march Thursday from South Broadway and West 65th Street to the LAPD's 77th Police Station at 7600 S. Broadway.
Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old African American man, was shot and killed by two LAPD officers. Officials say he had tackled one of them and attempted to go for the officer’s gun.
Some witnesses, however, say they did not see any struggle between the men and accuse the officers of shooting Ford in cold blood.
The president of the union representing rank-and-file LAPD officers last week called for patience during the department's ongoing investigation into the incident, criticizing what he called "inaccurate reports."
“While waiting for the facts to be determined, I feel the need to restate the obvious," Tyler Izen told The Times. "When a person attempts to take an officer’s gun from them, no matter their physical or mental condition, we should expect an officer to respond accordingly to save their life — and that likely includes the use of deadly force."
The shooting occurred Monday night as Ford was walking home along 65th Street in the Florence area of the city, according to witnesses and police.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said two veteran gang officers were driving down the same street when they spotted Ford. An LAPD statement, citing a preliminary investigation, said officers got out of their car and tried to talk to Ford, but he “continued walking and made suspicious movements, including attempting to conceal his hands.”
When the officers got closer, Smith said, Ford “whirled around and basically tackled the lead officer.” Ford reached for the officer’s gun, Smith said, prompting his partner to open fire. The officer on the ground reached for his backup weapon and also fired.
Ford was handcuffed — as is routine in such shootings, according to the LAPD — and paramedics were called to the scene. He died later at a hospital.
But some who lived in the area questioned the police account. A friend of Ford’s family told The Times she witnessed a part of the incident and saw no struggle between the officers and Ford.
Dorene Henderson, 57, said she had crossed the street in front of Ford when she heard someone yell, “Get down, get down.”
One officer was out of the car when Henderson said she heard a gunshot. She said neighbors began yelling at the officers, “He’s got mental problems.”
Henderson said she saw the other officer get out of the driver’s side of the police car, and she heard two more shots.
A man interviewed by KTLA-TV said Ford was complying with officers or had been subdued at the time of the shooting. These accounts prompted a backlash on social media against the LAPD, with some comparing Ford’s death to the shooting of Michael Brown, a young, unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo., which has led to ongoing protests and national headlines.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, acknowledged that the anger surrounding Ford's death was amplified by the situation in Missouri.
"I knew there was going to be tension because it's coming against the backdrop of Ferguson," he said.
Smith cautioned that the LAPD’s investigation into the incident was ongoing, as are separate reviews by the department’s inspector general and the district attorney’s office. But, he said, “there is a lot of misinformation out there.”
“He didn’t comply with any of the officers’ instructions,” Smith said. “He was grabbing the officer’s gun with the officer underneath him.”
Coroner’s officials have yet to release details about Ford’s wounds.
Ford's family has hired a former attorney for Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by LAPD officers more than 20 years ago set off a period of racial unrest in Los Angeles. Attorney Steven A. Lerman said he plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD.