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Parents of Ezell Ford, who was fatally shot by LAPD officers, settle lawsuit with city

Ezell Ford's mother, Tritobia Ford, speaks at a 2015 news conference calling for prosecutors to charge two officers in connection with her son's death.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

The parents of Ezell Ford, a mentally ill man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles police officers in 2014, have settled their wrongful death and state civil rights lawsuit with the city of L.A., according to court papers.

Attorneys for Ford’s parents and the city reached the tentative settlement Oct. 21, according to an order filed by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rita Miller. The terms of the agreement were not publicly disclosed.

Boris Treyzon, one of the attorneys representing the Ford family, said the settlement was not finalized and needed approval by the City Council.

“Without their approval, there is no settlement,” Treyzon said.

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Ford, 25, was walking near his family’s South L.A. home about 8 p.m. on Aug. 11, 2014, when LAPD Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas left their car to speak with him.

Ford, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, looked over at the officers, walked away and tried to hide his hands near his waistband, according to the Police Department’s account of the shooting.

The officers trailed Ford to a driveway, where Ford hid near a car and bushes. An officer reached for Ford, who then forced the officer to the ground, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has previously said.

Wampler stated that Ford tried to grab his firearm, according to a lawsuit the officer later filed against the city. Villegas fired two shots at Ford, and Wampler used a secondary gun to shoot Ford in the back.

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Two hours later, Ford died in a hospital.

The death of Ford, a black man, ignited a new round of protests amid a wave of highly publicized and controversial shootings of black men by police across the country.

Ford’s parents, Edsell and Tritobia Ford, alleged in their lawsuit filed March 6, 2015, that both officers were motivated by “prejudice, disdain and contempt for African Americans or persons of black skin tone.”

Attorneys for Wampler, who is Asian American, and Villegas, who is Latino, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

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But in court papers, attorneys for the officers rejected the Fords’ claims and said the lethal force used by the officers was “reasonable and necessary for self defense.”

The parents alleged the LAPD was negligent in the hiring, training and supervision of the officers.

A separate federal lawsuit was also filed by the Fords against the LAPD and the two officers. To focus on the state lawsuit, the family’s attorneys voluntarily dropped the federal case June 28 without reaching a settlement or verdict.

Beck concluded that Wampler and Villegas acted within department policy. Investigators found evidence backing Wampler’s assertions that he had been in a fight for his life as he and Ford wrestled for the officer’s gun. They identified Ford’s DNA on the weapon, and scratches on the holster and hands of the officer and Ford.

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But in June 2015, the Police Commission, the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD, rejected Beck’s finding and determined that Wampler violated the department’s deadly force policy.

The panel disapproved of Villegas’ initial decision to draw his weapon early on in the confrontation, but said he ultimately was right to fire at Ford to protect Wampler.

The district attorney’s office has yet to announce whether charges will be filed against the officers.

In May, a federal judge approved a protective order that allows the district attorney’s office to review previously confidential information, including the officers’ interviews with LAPD internal investigators; the officers’ depositions; and the depositions of three civilian witnesses.

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Meanwhile, Wampler and Villegas filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city Aug. 3, contending they have been denied advancement and other employment opportunities in the LAPD because of their race and that of Ford.

The officers said they had been confined to desk duty and restricted from returning to the field since the shooting. Both are seeking lost income and compensation for emotional and other injuries from the loss of overtime, promotions and other job opportunities.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno

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Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

6:20 p.m., Nov. 2: This article was updated to clarify the results of the LAPD’s investigation into the two officers’ conduct.

This article was originally published Nov. 1 at 10:50 p.m.

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