Crime & Justice

LAPD fatal shooting: Police say man grabbed for officer’s gun

A map of the South Los Angeles location where the fatal police shooting occured.
A map of the South Los Angeles location where the fatal police shooting occured.

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An unarmed 25-year-old African American man, fatally shot by Los Angeles police in South LA Monday night, “tackled” one of the officers before the shooting, according to an LAPD spokesman. The shooting has sparked anger among some neighborhood residents, who say it was unjustified. They've planned a protest Sunday outside LAPD headquarters.

The incident started when two officers with the Newton Division’s Gang Enforcement Detail confronted Ezell Ford during an “investigative stop” around 8:20 pm, according to Commander Andrew Smith. He did not know what precipitated the stop. Gang officers regularly approach people who they believe may be involved in gang activity.

“As the first officer gets close, the suspect spins around and grabbed the officer around the waist, threw him to the ground and was laying on top of the officer,” Smith said. “There was a struggle over the officer’s weapon and the officer on the ground withdrew his backup weapon and shot the suspect.” Many officers carry backup weapons in ankle holsters or tucked inside pants pockets. 

The second officer also fired at Ford. Smith would not say how many bullets were fired or how many struck the suspect. Both officers are “veterans” with at least seven years at the department, he said.

LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger told KPCC that Ford "made suspicious movements, including attempting to conceal his hands." Paysinger also said Ford "attempted to remove the officer's handgun from its holster."  He added that "the suspect partially removed the gun from the officer's holster, and it was indeed a struggle for their lives." 

The incident occurred amid heightened scrutiny of police nationwide. The fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American man in Missouri, has set off violence and vandalism there.

Ford's family members told KTLA that he was "mentally challenged" and officers should not have shot him. "My heart is so heavy," said his mother, Tritobia Ford. One man told the TV station Ezell Ford was on the ground when police shot him.

Smith acknowledged Ford was shot when he was on the ground during a chaotic struggle with officers in the 200 block of West 65th Street, just west of the 110 Freeway.

“This was an extremely rapidly unfolding event,” Smith said. “Basically the fight was on.”

Both officers have been temporarily taken off the streets. The LAPD’s Force Investigation Division, Inspector General and LA County District Attorney are investigating the incident.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the age of Ezell Ford and contained a typo in a quote from Commander Andrew Smith. KPCC regrets the errors.