The Los Angeles Police Department has cleared officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas in the shooting death of Ezell Ford on Aug. 11, 2014, calling the shooting “justified,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
As previously reported, Ford was shot three times, including once in the back at such close range that the muzzle of the officer’s gun left an imprint, according to the autopsy report.
Although the LAPD concluded that Ford, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, engaged the officers in an altercation that led to his shooting, eyewitnesses maintain that Ford was restrained and face down on the ground when he was killed.
The Times reports:
Alex Bustamante, the Los Angeles Police Department’s inspector general, found the shooting justified, but he faulted the officers for how they approached Ford in the moments leading up to the shooting, according to the sources. LAPD officials have never offered an explanation for why the officers stopped the 25-year-old Ford, but the sources said that the officers told investigators they decided to detain him because they believed Ford was trying to discard narcotics as he walked. The department has never publicly said whether narcotics were found.
According to the Times’ report Friday, “the Police Commission, a civilian panel that oversees the LAPD and makes the final ruling on all serious uses of force by officers, is scheduled to discuss the shooting in private on Tuesday after its weekly public meeting.”
LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck is expected to recommend that the officers be cleared in three categories: their decision to draw their weapons; their decision to use deadly force; and whether their tactics were acceptable. Bustamante is expected to recommend that the officers be “faulted for their tactics,” the Times reports.
In a case of what appears to be “good cop/bad cop,” however, even if the commission followed Bustamante’s recommendation, it would fall to Beck to decide the appropriate punishment for Wampler and Villegas.
Tritobia Ford, mother of Ezell Ford, recently said that she believed justice would prevail.
“I just believe that God won’t allow Ezell’s life to be just taken like this in vain,” Ford said. “There will be some justice for Ezell.
“I've been told I’m crazy. But I have to hold onto that.”