Protesters meet with Beck; chief refuses to fire officers who shot Ezell Ford

#BlackLivesMatter members hold a news conference outside LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles after four representatives from the group met with Chief Charlie Beck to voice their concerns about fatal police shootings.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Leaders of BlackLivesMatter met with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck early Friday, but said he refused their demands that the two officers who fatally shot a mentally disabled black man be fired or at least removed from the police force.

But, they said, Beck did agree to be more respectful of the protesters who have gathered daily outside police headquarters in downtown L.A.

Shortly after the group met with Beck, the LAPD began removing a steel barricade stretching across the front courtyard of police headquarters, where protesters are camped on the sidewalk.


First Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, who was in the meeting with leaders of the L.A. branch of #BlackLivesMatter, said “as part of a collaborative effort with the protesters we are removing the barriers.”

Paysinger also agreed to not immediately remove the chalk writings and drawings that protesters have sketched on the sidewalk outside headquarters.

The protesters said they would remain outside the building, where they have been encamped for days, until the officers who killed the 25-year-old man in South L.A. are fired or removed from duty.

“We will be here until we win,” said Melina Abdullah, a #BlackLivesMatter leader and chairwoman of Pan African Studies at Cal State L.A. “We will get justice for Ezell Ford.”

LAPD officials have said Ford was shot Aug. 11, 2014, after he reached for an officer’s gun as he and the officer wrestled on the ground . A second officer standing nearby shot Ford twice, and then the officer on the ground reached around Ford’s back and shot him, police said.

Protest leaders said the fact that protesters had a conversation with Beck was a victory, and they were heartened that he promised they would “be treated more respectfully.” The conversation was facilitated by City Council President Herb Wesson who also attended the meeting.


But Abdullah said Beck refused to yield on firing or even removing the officers -- Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas -- from their duties. Both are now assigned to administrative tasks.

Beck, they said, told them it would be March or April before the investigation into the shooting is complete.

Cmdr. Andrew Smith said Beck’s actions were limited by state laws governing the personnel process and that the chief couldn’t simply fire officers. He said an investigation takes time, and prosecutors have to review the findings.

“The department will respect the rights of protesters to express themselves in a legal manner,” he said.

As part of the meeting, Beck agreed to make Paysinger the department’s point man on issues with the protesters. Paysinger oversaw the removal of the barrier Friday and they negotiated an agreement on the chalking.

Early this week, two protesters -- including Abdullah -- were arrested as they tried to deliver demands at the police headquarters. Protesters also this week packed the police commission meeting room, demanding everything from greater transparency to complete civilian control over the department.


At one point during the protest at the commission meeting, an African American man repeatedly shouted a racial slur at Paula Madison, the commission’s only black member, and called Beck a coward. Some people in the crowd applauded.

The local demands echoed those that have been made during numerous LAPD-related demonstrations in recent weeks, part of nationwide demonstrations over several high-profile officer-involved killings.

The LAPD has been criticized over Ford’s shooting, including delaying releasing the coroner’s report until Dec. 29.

Follow Southern California crime @lacrimes.