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Ezell Ford demonstrators disrupt L.A. Police Commission meeting

Ezell Ford demonstrators disrupt L.A. Police Commission meeting
Protesters chant during an L.A. Police Commission meeting on Tuesday. The meeting, held on the first anniversary of the shooting death of South L.A. resident Ezell Ford, had to be halted briefly. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Demonstrators briefly halted the Los Angeles Police Commission's weekly meeting Tuesday as they chanted and called for criminal charges against two officers who fatally shot Ezell Ford a year ago.


The first mention of Ford's name at the meeting prompted applause from some people in the audience, which included Black Lives Matter activists and Ford's mother. But the group erupted after a woman spoke in support of police and mentioned "black-on-black killings."

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this post said the police commission concluded that Officer Sharlton Wampler's actions in the shooting of Ford were within policy. The commission found that Wampler's actions violated department policy.

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As demonstrators began to shout at the woman, Commission President Steve Soboroff called a recess and the board cleared the room. Activists sprang to their feet, holding photos of Ford and chanting his name.

Some held up posters with the names of the two officers who shot Ford in South Los Angeles. "Wanted for the Cold Blooded Murder of Ezell Ford," the signs read.

Tensions flared when some of the activists yelled at police officers who lined the front of the room. At one point, an 11-year-old girl shouted at the officers: "I am scared of you!"

A few minutes later, an LAPD lieutenant declared an unlawful assembly. No arrests were made — instead, the demonstrators delivered written demands that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the officers who shot Ford attend a "people's tribunal."

"They have this policy of keeping killer cops on duty and they expect us to just accept it," said Melina Abdullah, a Cal State L.A. professor and organizer for Black Lives Matter. "If we did, we wouldn't be living up to our duty as people."

The demonstration continued outside police headquarters, where some protesters recognized an officer who was involved in a fatal police shooting on skid row earlier this year. "Killer cop!" they shouted at the officer as he ducked inside the building.

The Aug. 11, 2014, death of Ford became a local touchstone in the heated national conversation about police officers and how they use force, particularly against black men. Ford, a 25-year-old mentally ill African American, died two days after an officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Ford was fatally shot as he walked near his South Los Angeles home. Police allege that Ford tackled one of the officers and attempted to grab his gun, prompting the officer to reach for a backup weapon and fire. The officer's partner also shot at Ford, police said.

A 10-month review of Ford's death came to a dramatic conclusion in June, when the Police Commission ruled that one of the officers, Sharlton Wampler, who fatally shot Ford, violated department policy. Wampler had been in a struggle with Ford over the officer's holstered handgun when the shooting took place, Beck said. Although Wampler may have been in a fight for his life, police commissioners decided that he did not have a reason to stop and detain Ford in the first place. His handling of the encounter, the commission concluded, was so flawed that it led to the fatal confrontation.

The officer's partner, Antonio Villegas, was found far less culpable. The panel disapproved only of Villegas' initial decision to draw his weapon early in the confrontation, but said he ultimately was right to fire at Ford in an effort to protect his partner.

It is up to Beck to decide whether to discipline the officers and for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office to decide whether to file criminal charges against them. A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office said Tuesday that the case was still under review.

The officers who shot Ford are working administrative jobs out of the field, an LAPD spokesman said. They are not assigned to the LAPD's Newton Division, the jurisdiction where Ford was shot.

Follow @katemather for more LAPD news and @JosephSerna for California news.

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