The atmosphere in a South Los Angeles church was at times tense Tuesday night as residents and activists peppered Los Angeles police officials with questions about two officers' fatal shooting of a mentally ill man.
Pictures of Ezell Ford dotted the Paradise Baptist Church, where a crowd of more than 200 people often shouted and interrupted Police Chief Charlie Beck as he tried to address concerns surrounding the investigation into Ford's death.
Beck emphasized that the investigation was only a week old, saying that officials had not yet gathered all the facts. But the crowd grew frustrated when he declined to share information such as the names of the officers involved or why they had stopped Ford.
"Of course that is important to us," he said when asked why the officers approached Ford. "And that will be revealed in the investigation.".........
The crowd groaned.
"Wait, wait. Stop, please," Beck said. "I will not give you half a story.… We have to find out all the facts."
The meeting came amid continuing questions about the Aug. 11 killing of Ford, 25, who according to his parents was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Beck was joined at the meeting by rank-and-file officers and top brass, along with Police Commission President Steve Soboroff and Inspector General Alex Bustamante.
Conflicting accounts about Ford's death have emerged. An LAPD statement, citing a preliminary investigation, said Ford tackled one of two gang officers who approached him on West 65th Street and reached for the officer's gun, prompting both officers to open fire. But a friend of Ford's family told The Times that she witnessed part of the incident and saw no struggle between the officers and Ford.
The LAPD has pledged a thorough and transparent investigation into Ford's death, which will also be reviewed by an independent inspector general and the district attorney's office. But the LAPD has drawn criticism for not releasing more information, including the names of the two gang officers who shot Ford.For members of a community with experience of repeated incidents of police shootings of unarmed black people, usually men, and police investigations ultimately clearing the shooters, scepticism of police accounts and practices is warranted. This holds as well for this week's St. Louis police shooting of another 25 year old black man police said threatened them with a knife. Police investigations have lost, deservedly so, their epistemic authority with the public and scepticism is the reasonable response.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a civil rights advocate who met with top LAPD officials last week to discuss the shooting, said that releasing the officers' names is an essential part of being transparent.
"We want to know if there's a prior history of complaints or misconduct, if this officer has been written up, if this officer has been disciplined," said Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. "You then determine if this is truly an isolated event, unfortunate and tragic, or if there may be a history for one or more of the officers involved."