Saturday, June 6, 2015

LA police to clear themselves in Ezell Ford shooting (updated)

It took them the better part of a year, but the LA police investigation of the shooting of Ezell Ford is yielding the predictable result:
The Los Angeles police chief and his department’s independent watchdog have found that a fatal close-range shooting of a 25-year-old black man by officers last year was justified, a department source said.
However, the findings by Chief Charlie Beck and the inspector general are only recommendations to the Police Commission, which will determine after a hearing on Tuesday whether the shooting of Ezell Ford was within department policy.
The findings were confirmed Friday by a Police Department employee with knowledge of the investigation who was not authorized to release them and did so on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Ford died after being shot multiple times by Los Angeles police officers on Aug. 11. Demonstrators connected the death with that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., just days earlier.
According to the Police Department, Mr. Ford was acting suspiciously when he caught the attention of two officers on a neighborhood patrol. When confronted by officers, Mr. Ford allegedly knocked one officer to the ground and was grappling for the officer’s holstered weapon when the second officer fired two shots. The first officer pulled out a backup gun and shot Mr. Ford in the back, Chief Beck said last year.
The LA Times provides more:
 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.
Bustamante concluded in his report to the Police Commission that it was unclear whether the officers' observations were sufficient justification to approach Ford and then try to detain him, the sources said.
Ford had a history of serious mental illness.
 Ford's death became a local rallying cry against killings by police, particularly those of black men. Ford, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died two days after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., which prompted nationwide demonstrations and a heated conversation about race and policing.
Ford was one of 18 people killed and nine others wounded in LAPD shootings last year, the department said. As of Monday, police officers had shot and killed eight people and wounded another eight so far this year, the department said.
 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.
As with all shootings, the commissioners will determine whether the officers' decisions to draw their weapons and then use deadly force fell within department policies. The board also will rule on whether the tactics the officers used throughout the encounter were acceptable.
Beck, according to the sources, will recommend to the commission that the officers be cleared in all three categories, while Bustamante, whose office conducted its own investigation of the shooting, will recommend the board fault the officers for their tactics.
On Tuesday the civilian review board for the LAPD rejected the recommendations from the police chief and inspector general::
he Los Angeles Police Commission issued a mixed ruling Tuesday in last year’s killing of a mentally ill black man, finding that one officer was wrong to use deadly force but clearing another in the fatal shooting.
The board also faulted both officers for their decisions to draw their weapons at different points during the confrontation with Ezell Ford and disapproved of the tactics used by one of the officers.
The unanimous ruling brought to a close a 10-month investigation into a case that fanned anger and ignited protests over the use of deadly force by police.
Ford's death became a local touchstone in a year when a string of controversial killings of black men by police around the country spurred a national debate about race and policing. Ford, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died two days after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., which set off the outcry.
 With their vote, the commission rejected a recommendation by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who believed both officers were right to open fire and had urged commissioners to clear both of any wrongdoing.
Like Beck, the commission’s inspector general also recommended that the panel find that the shooting was justified because of evidence pointing to a struggle between one of the officers and Ford over the officer’s gun.

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