High-profile faces join protest of LAPD shooting of mentally ill man

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Public attention escalated Thursday over the shooting of a 25-year-old mentally ill man by LAPD officers in South Los Angeles earlier this week. 

Family members of Ezell Ford say the man was mentally challenged and never should have been shot. LAPD officials, meanwhile, say Ford grabbed for an officer's gun after throwing him to the ground.

On Wednesday, LAPD officials spoke with media about the shooting, calling on the public to withhold judgment until an internal investigation finishes looking into the incident, along with the L.A. County District Attorney and LAPD's Inspector General. 

On Thursday, attorney Steven Lerman announced he's representing Ford's family. Lerman's most famous for acting as Rodney King's attorney when King sued the LAPD in 1991. 

Lerman said he's deployed investigators in the neighborhood to interview witnesses and will be commissioning a private autopsy, in anticipation of a federal lawsuit against LAPD.

"He had no gang affiliation, he had no weapons, he was not a threat, he was walking down a city street, minding his own business at eight o'clock on a Monday night," Lerman said. "They could have used a taser, they could have used other less lethal things like beanbag shotguns if there was that kind of confrontation."

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a local civil rights leader and media personality, announced he'd meet with LAPD officials late Thursday to discuss the investigation.

"The meeting will stress that the LAPD and all investigations into the Ford killing be speedy, transparent, no press leaks, and all eyewitnesses interviewed," Hutchinson said in a statement. “This is critically important given the tensions in the community surrounding the killing and in light of the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown." 

According to LAPD's account of the incident, Ezell Ford was walking down 65th Street on Monday night when two officers with the Newton Division's Gang Enforcement Detail stopped him. Ford allegedly threw one of the officers to the ground and tried to grab his gun before he was shot by both officers.

But witnesses have given alternative accounts of what happened. One man told KTLA Ford was on the ground when police shot him.

Local organizers have linked Ford's death to that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown, an unarmed, college-bound 18-year-old, was shot multiple times by a Ferguson police officer under disputed circumstances

A flier circulating online Thursday called for an afternoon peaceful protests in Leimert Park linked to the Ferguson incident. Community activists have also planned a Sunday protest outside LAPD headquarters of Ford's death. 

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