An attorney for the family of Ezell Ford says he has four witnesses from the South Los Angeles neighborhood where police confronted Ford who directly contradict the LAPD’s version of events. Two anti-gang officers fatally shot the unarmed, mentally ill African American man August 11.
The shooting occurred just two days after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and sparked angry protests outside police headquarters.
Here are the key facts that are in dispute:
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says the two Newton Division anti-gang officers who shot Ford have told detectives Ford concealed his hands as they attempted to stop him in the 200 block of East 65th Street around 8pm Aug. 11.
Attorney Fred Sayre, who represents Ford’s parents in a federal civil rights lawsuit, says two male witnesses who were within about 30 feet of Ford at the time dispute this account.
“They saw him raise his hands as the police officers got out of the vehicle,” Sayre told KPCC. One witness was crossing the street at the time. Another was almost directly across the street.
Sayre declined to provide the names of the witnesses to KPCC but said he has given them to the city attorney's office.
Chief Beck says the officers told detectives that Ford walked away from them and crouched between a car and some bushes in a nearby driveway. According to the officers, Ford then tackled one of them.
Sayre says the two male witnesses have a different version.
“They saw the officer that was driving the vehicle tackle Ford and take him down,” Sayre says.
3-Who was on top
Chief Beck says the officers have told detectives that Ford was on top of one of them and grabbing for his gun when they both opened fire.
“While on top of the officer, Mr. Ford grabbed the officer's handgun and attempted to remove the gun from the officer’s holster," Beck said.
Sayre says two women who were inside the home adjacent to the driveway tell him the opposite is true:
“They saw Ezell Ford with the officer on top of him and Ezell Ford face down,” Sayre says.
An autopsy shows the officers shot Ford three times – including once in the back. Beck says the officer on the ground used his back-up weapon when he reached around Ford and shot him in the back.
Sayre said none of his witnesses can say for certain whether Ford ever grabbed for the officer's gun.
Sayre says one female witness says she heard one officer shout “stop trying to grab my gun,” presumably referring to Ford. A male witness says he heard an officer shout “shoot him,” according to the attorney.
Beck says Sayre’s witnesses have refused to speak to detectives.
Sayre says that's because they don’t trust the LAPD. He also says detectives have been “harassing” them by coming to their homes and repeatedly asking them to recount what they saw.
Sayre says the witnesses will provide depositions in February as part of the family’s federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the LAPD.
“I like to protect my witnesses until they are deposed,” says Sayre, who was one of the attorneys who represented Rodney King nearly a quarter century ago.