Crime & Justice

Ezell Ford killing: City says LAPD officers acted in self-defense

A memorial for Ezell Ford stands on the 200 block of West 65th Street, where he was shot by LAPD officers.
A memorial for Ezell Ford stands on the 200 block of West 65th Street, where he was shot by LAPD officers.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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A mentally ill African American man knowingly acted in a way that forced two LAPD officers to fatally shoot him, according to a federal court filing by the Los Angeles City Attorney.

The two officers shot Ezell Ford, who was unarmed, after he tried to grab one of their guns, according to LAPD officials and the court filing.

The shooting occurred August 11 on West 65th Street in South LA.  Ford was 25.

Ford “knew and understood the degree of risk, and voluntarily assumed such risk,” according to documents the city filed in response to a lawsuit by the family. “The forced used…was caused and necessitated by the actions of the decedent, and was reasonable and necessary for self-defense.”

The shooting, which drew comparisons to the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked angry protests outside LAPD headquarters. Chief Charlie Beck later attended a raucous town hall meeting in an attempt to calm tensions.

Ford’s parents have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, the LAPD, and Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas. The lawsuit, which seeks $75 million from the city, says Ford complied with the officers’ orders to lie on the ground.

The family says Wampler and Villegas, two Newton Division anti-gang officers who regularly patrolled the neighborhood, knew Ford and knew he was “mentally challenged.”

"They knew that he was basically helpless and harmless,” Ford family attorney Steven Lerman told reporters last month. “Yet, they proceeded to attack him, bring him to the ground and shoot and kill him without justification.”

LAPD officials have said officers were conducting an “investigative stop” on Ford. They have not elaborated on why officers confronted him.