Crime & Justice

Ezell Ford shooting: LAPD inspector general frustrated by lack of witnesses

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti ask for witnesses to Ezell Ford police shooting. None have come forward.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti ask for witnesses to Ezell Ford police shooting. None have come forward.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

The LAPD’s inspector general expressed frustration Friday about the dearth of witnesses coming forward in the fatal police shooting of an unarmed, mentally ill African American man Aug. 11 in South Los Angeles - an incident that's sparked angry protests and drawn comparisons to the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to talk or meet with any eyewitnesses that actually saw the incident occur,” LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante told KPCC’s Take Two show. Investigators from his office and LAPD detectives have canvassed the neighborhood numerous times and handed out fliers, he said. They’ve encountered nobody willing to talk about seeing the shooting of Ezell Ford, 25.

“Its very hard for me to do any type of investigation when we are not able to get those key witnesses,” Bustamante said.

An attorney for the Ford family says he has spoken with four people who directly contradict the officers’ version of events – that Ford concealed his hands as they tried to stop him on the street and then tackled an officer and tried to grab his gun. But those witnesses refuse to talk to police because they don’t trust the LAPD, according to attorney Fred Sayre.

“They saw the officer that was driving the vehicle tackle Ford and take him down,” Sayre said of two men who were walking in the neighborhood. Two women in a nearby home also saw the encounter. “They saw Ezell Ford with the officer on top of him and Ezell Ford face down.”

The coroner's autopsy shows officers shot Ford three times, including once in the back at close range.

Bustamante said they should speak with his investigators. He assured any witnesses his office would provide a fair, independent assessment of what happened.

“We are going to oversee the department’s entire investigation,” the inspector general said. “We are going to comb thru all the physical evidence and all the witness statements and all of the scientific evidence.”

Sayre, who represents the family in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and LAPD, said Bustamante and department will have to wait to hear from the witnesses when they give their depositions as part of the lawsuit. Depositions are tentatively scheduled for February or March, Sayre said.

The attorney has accused the LAPD of “harassing” witnesses because detectives repeatedly have visited them asking them to provide statements.