D.A. Will Not Charge LAPD Officers in Ezell Ford Shooting

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A coalition of religious and community groups announced Wednesday it plans to begin a recall effort targeting Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey over her decision not to prosecute the two Los Angeles police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford.

The District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that no charges will be filed against the two officers. Ford’s 2014 death has been a focal point of protests against the Los Angeles Police Department over police shootings of black suspects.

In a 28-page report detailing its investigation into Ford’s Aug. 11, 2014, shooting death, the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division concluded that Los Angeles police Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others.”

“Lacey has betrayed the trust of our community and has essentially been useless in terms of protecting our citizens from police murder and abuse,” a coalition statement said. “Ezell Ford was killed while walking home minding his own business.”

The coalition was described in the statement as including the National Action Network, Project Islamic Hope, Weller Street Baptist Church and a coalition of activists.

The mother of Ezell Ford said Tuesday the decision by prosecutors not to charge the officers involved means her son “will not see justice.”

Speaking to reporters at First AME Church in South Los Angeles, Tritobia Ford said the officers involved are getting away with murder.

“My son was unarmed. He was murdered. And there will be no justice. He will not see justice. There will be no justice for Ezell,” she said.

Ford said that even after the city Police Commission ruled the shooting was out of policy, she did not believe that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck would discipline the officers.

Ford’s family, which sued the department over the shooting in 2015, contended that Ford was “mentally challenged” and wasn’t doing anything wrong when he was approached by the officers.

In a statement, Lacey said, “Our office has a daunting challenge each and every time there is an officer-involved shooting. In this case, we did everything we could to ensure a comprehensive investigation. Although the loss of Mr. Ford’s life is tragic, we believe the officers’ actions were legally justified and the evidence supports our decision.”

Police and prosecutors said the two LAPD Newton Area gang enforcement officers approached Ford, 25, because he was acting suspiciously and may have been trying to discard an illegal substance. A struggle ensued.

“… The evidence indicates that Ford was on top of Wampler, struggling to obtain Wampler’s primary service weapon and posing an immediate threat to his safety and his partner’s safety,” according to the District Attorney’s Office report.

“In fear for their lives, Villegas and Wampler each responded with deadly force.”

Ford — who was shot three times — was taken to California Medical Center Hospital, where he died less than two hours later.

The front portion of Wampler’s holster subsequently tested positive for Ford’s “touch” DNA — with the DNA either coming from Ford’s sweat, skin or saliva because the area tested negative for blood, according to the report.

“This corroborates that Ford’s hand was touching Wampler’s holster during this incident,” prosecutors wrote in the report.

Blood stains on the front of Wampler’s utility belt and uniform shirt are consistent with Ford lying on top of Wampler when he was shot, and Wampler’s uniform appeared to have dirt on the back of the shirt and the pants, prosecutors wrote in the report.

Four witnesses made statements that differed substantially from the officers’ accounts in several areas, with each saying that one or both of the officers were on top of Ford, according to the report.

“If Ford was on the ground and one or both officers were on top of him, it is unlikely that he would have gunshots to both his front and back,” prosecutors wrote in the report.

A witness who was unaware of Wampler’s presence at the scene said she heard Villegas state, “Let go of the gun!” according to the report.

Villegas shot Ford twice, and Wampler pulled out his back-up weapon with his left hand, reached around Ford’s body and shot him once in the back, prosecutors said.

The report comes after what the District Attorney’s Office called a thorough and exhaustive review that included access to more than 1,000 pages of deposition transcripts of nine people whose testimony cannot be made public because of a federal court protective order.

“Although there were obstacles along the way, obtaining these statements was crucial to frame the entire picture of what happened the night Mr. Ford was shot,” Lacey said.

The city Police Commission ruled in 2015 that one of the officers in the shooting was justified in opening fire, but the other violated department policy. The commission did not specify which officer acted improperly.

Ford’s parents sued the city, but a tentative settlement was reached last year.

According to the lawsuit filed in March 2015, Wampler and Villegas — who were named defendants along with the city and LAPD — “intentionally and/or negligently fatally shot unarmed decedent Ezell Ford multiple times with their firearms” after he had complied with their order to lie on the ground.

The officers knew Ford was “mentally challenged” and that he was not committing a crime at the time, the lawsuit stated.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, issued a statement in support of the District Attorney’s Office decision against filing charges.

“No officer ever wants to be put in a dangerous situation where they must struggle to maintain control of their weapon, but officers must be allowed to protect themselves, their partners and the public,” according to the union.

Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement saying he accepts the decision, but he will ”rededicate my administration to the search for better ways to protect the safety of all Angelenos, and reiterate my support for the Police Commission’s goal of reinforcing de-escalation in the training of our officers.”

 

Burglary Suspect Fatally Shot by Police Identified

April 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Update: 11:45am April 15, 2016 Authorities identified Friday a man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles police officers while he held a man at knifepoint in a Boyle Heights apartment as Arturo Valdez, 27, with unknown home town.

He died at the scene, coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said.

Los Angeles police officers shot and killed a burglary suspect who was holding a man at knifepoint in a Boyle Heights apartment, authorities said Monday.

The deceased suspect was described by coroner’s Lt. Larry Dietz as a Hispanic man in his mid-to-late 20s.

It happened about 8:30 p.m. Sunday in an apartment in the 200 block of Park Paseo, Los Angeles police Officer Norma Eisenman said.

Officers responded to a call of a burglary in progress at the apartment, according to Eisenman.

“When the officers entered the apartment they saw the suspect holding an elderly man at knifepoint, so they fired and hit the suspect,” she said.

The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, Eisenman said.

Police set up a command post at Utah Elementary School, near Utah Street and Plaza del Sol, police said.

Troubling Rise In LAPD Shootings of Mentally Ill

March 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles police officers used force on members of the public nearly 2,000 times last year, including 21 people who were fatally shot, according to an LAPD report presented to the Police Commission Tuesday.

There were 48 police shootings, including 38 cases in which people — more than one-third of whom were mentally ill — were hit, the report found.

The shootings caused the deaths of 21 people.

The 21 fatal shootings by Los Angeles police outpaced the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which had 14; the Houston Police Department, which had 12; and Chicago, which had eight people die from police shootings in 2015, according to the report.

The number of people considered to be mentally ill who were shot by police rose nearly 300 percent from the previous year, a rise department officials called “troubling.”

Fourteen of the 38 people shot by police in 2015 “had an indication of mental illness,” according to the report.
Half of the 38 people who were shot were carrying a gun, according to the report, and 11 officers were injured in officer-involved shootings.

Department officials emphasized that use of force by LAPD officers is still relatively rare. The 1,924 use-of-force cases in 2015 represented 0.13 percent of the 1.5 million recorded interactions between the public and the police department, according to the report.

Use of force is defined as shootings and other potentially lethal and less-than-lethal encounters with members of the public, such as head strikes, deaths while a person is in custody, the shooting of animals and K-9 contacts with the public that lead to hospitalization.

The report’s release came on the one-year anniversary of the fatal police shooting of 39-year-old Charly Keunang, who was known on Skid Row as “Africa.” The shooting, which was captured on cell phone video, sparked protests by activists who accused officers of escalating the situation and killing an unarmed man.

Some protesters briefly disrupted today’s Police Commission meeting by chanting slogans referencing Keunang’s killing.

A small group of protesters also staged a Skid Row-area rally to mark the date.

The Police Commission ruled last month that all the officers involved in the shooting followed department policy in the use of deadly force, although one officer violated policy in the tactics used.

Jump in Police Shootings ‘Alarming’

November 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Saying officer-involved shootings have nearly doubled since last year, the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission called Tuesday for efforts to help reduce such shootings and other use-of-force by officers.

Matt Johnson said the increase from 23 officer-involved shootings last year to 45 so far this year is an “alarming development.”

“I believe we can work toward vastly reducing the number of use-of-force incidents through extensive training and modifying our tactics,” he said.

Fellow commissioners, along with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, threw their support behind Johnson’s proposals, which include looking back on the past 10 years of shootings and use-of-force by Los Angeles police officers, along with the changes in training and policies that have occurred during that time.

Johnson asked for a comparison of Los Angeles’ officer-involved shootings and other uses of force with those of other law-enforcement agencies around the country.

He also suggested looking at how the department might use more non-lethal weapons, such as stun guns and beanbag guns, during interactions with suspects carrying knives or other weapons that are not firearms, and with those who are mentally ill.

Also proposed was an annual reporting of use-of-force cases that would contain information to help the Police Commission review such cases and create policy. Johnson asked that a final draft of the reporting format be presented to the commission in 30 days.

Johnson also called on the Office of the Inspector General to monitor and report back on the effectiveness of police training programs and to create an audit plan for the department’s use of body cameras.

These steps “will be tools to guide us on how and where we can improve the department,” Johnson said.

“Once we have this information, it will be our collective responsibility — the department, this commission and the community — to use it to continue the reform efforts that began with the consent decree and to build the LAPD into the best trained, best equipped, most professional and most respected police organization in America,” he said.

Commissioner Kathleen Kim said she “fully” supports Johnson’s recommendations.

“In taking a critical look at use-of-force, it (Johnson’s proposal) not only aims to reduce uses of force for public safety, but also for officer safety, and I think that’s really critical to keep mind,” she said.

She added she hopes “the role of race will also be looked at,” and that there will be a “fresh look and a critical evaluation of the legal standards and the policies in place” around officer shootings and use-of-force.

Beck said he has been guiding the department in the same direction outlined under Johnson’s proposal, and that it is “very heartening to see the commissioner and I share a vision of what needs to happen.”

He said it would be “a good thing to compare us nationally,” and also noted that while the number of police shootings has almost doubled, that number “is small compared to the number of contacts the police department makes.”

 

Lawsuit Filed In Lincoln Heights Police Shooting

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Relatives of a man shot and killed by Los Angeles police officers in Lincoln Heights in April are suing the city and the three officers.

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed late last week alleges that Luis Molina Martinez, 35, was shot five times, including three times in the back while he was lying face-down in his doorway.

The suit also alleges officers falsified evidence after the shooting to cover up their alleged wrongdoing.

The complaint alleges wrongful death, negligence, civil rights violations and assault and battery. The plaintiffs are Ramirez’s widow, Monica Ramirez; their three biological children and their stepdaughter.

Along with the city, the suit names as defendants LAPD officers Ricardo Huerta, Rudolph Rivera and Aldo Quintero. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

An LAPD spokesman declined to comment on the case.

Police said previously that Martinez was shot after he allegedly charged at them about 4:30 p.m. April 21 with a large hunting knife at his apartment in the 3400 block of Manitou Avenue. The incident unfolded after Ramirez dialed 911 and told dispatchers her husband was stabbing himself, police said.

Martinez was still holding the knife when officers arrived, police said.

Officers told him to put the knife down, but they shot at him when he advanced toward him, police said.

But according to the lawsuit, Ramirez called 911 to get medical attention for her husband. Martinez handed the knife to his wife and she put it out of his reach, the suit states.

After officers arrived, they told Ramirez to go outside and one of them asked a colleague if he had a stun gun, according to the complaint. One of the officers went to get the stun gun, but seconds later Martinez was shot with handguns, the suit alleges.

“One officer then kicked Mr. Martinez twice and none of the officers made any attempt at providing medical attention,” the suit states.

After paramedics arrived, Martinez’s body was lifted onto a gurney and taken away “to allow the officers to move and destroy the evidence of the homicide the shooting officers had just committed,” the suit alleges.

The officers conspired to alter the scene “to create a fictional account of what occurred” by planting a knife near Martinez, by pretending to provide him with proper medical aid and by “altering Mr. Martinez’s remains with additional wounds to support the officers’ false account,” the suit alleges.

Ramirez was not allowed to return to her apartment until the next day, the suit states.

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