Story by the Associated Press; curated by Oliver Darcy.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 25-year-old black man killed in a fight with Los Angeles police was shot three times in his right side, right arm and back, an autopsy report released Monday states.
The autopsy involving Ezell Ford was disclosed after police initially ordered the Los Angeles County coroner's office to withhold the results for months to avoid tainting potential witness statements.
Ford was unarmed when police confronted him on a street near his home Aug. 11. Police said officers tried to speak to him but got into a struggle with Ford and shot him when he tried to grab an officer's gun.
The autopsy report said a muzzle imprint was found around the back wound and also noted abrasions to Ford's left hand, forearm and elbow.
Police Chief Charlie Beck told a press conference the investigation was far from over. Stressing he was not drawing conclusions, Beck said: "There is nothing in the coroner's report that is inconsistent with the statements given to us by the officers."
Beck said the officers reported that Ford attracted their attention with suspicious actions then knocked one officer to the ground.
Ford was atop the officer and grappling for the officer's holstered weapon when another officer fired two shots and the fallen officer pulled a backup gun and shot Ford in the back, according to an account read by Beck on Monday.
The LAPD previously identified the two gang officers involved as Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, but Beck did not name the officers in his latest account. Their races have not been disclosed.
The chief said it would be several months before the results of the investigation are presented to the civilian Police Commission to determine if the shooting was within department policy.
The commission will receive separate recommendations from Beck and the department's independent inspector general.
The county district attorney's office will separately determine if the shooting was justified or if charges should be filed.
Beck appealed for any witnesses to come forward.
Steve Lerman, an attorney for Ford's parents, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. A voicemail left for Ford's parents was not immediately returned. Ford's parents have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit and a $75 million claim against the city alleging the two gang officers knew Ford from the neighborhood and were aware he had mental problems.
The suit also claimed that the city, LAPD and 10 unnamed superiors or other officers were part of a culture that tolerated civil rights violations, including racial profiling and excessive force against blacks.
The initial withholding of the autopsy report became an issue itself. Mayor Eric Garcetti promised in November that it would be released before year's end.
Garcetti said in a statement Monday that he'd ordered the autopsy's release "because transparency is key to the trust between the LAPD and the people they serve."
Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said in a statement that the autopsy presented only "one set of facts among many hundreds being collected and assessed in the ongoing investigation."
"LAPD officers are put directly in harm's way every day as they face complex situations, unthinkable dangers and split-second decisions while protecting the residents of Los Angeles," Izen said. "No officer goes to work with the intent of using force, much less deadly force, but force may become necessary."