An unarmed 25-year-old man slain by Los Angeles police officers back in August, suffered three gunshot wounds, including one to his back, a long-awaited autopsy report shows.
Shortly after a shooting was reported at the intersection of West 65th Street and South Broadway, the LAPD stopped 25-year-old Ezell Ford on the 200th block of 65th Street before things took a dangerous turn.
According to a police statement, officers opened fire after “a struggle ensued.”
Commander Andrew Smith said Ford “spun around, tucked his head toward the officer’s gun and basically tackled him to the ground, trying to grab at the weapon.” The partner shot at the man while the lead officer relied on his “backup weapon” to shoot, he added.
The mother of the victim, Tritobia Ford however, said her son was lying on the ground and obeying the officers’ commands when he was shot three times in the back. “My heart is so heavy. My son was a good kid. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did,” she said.
Tritobia Ford also claims that police refused to inform her of where her son was hospitalized, a claim police deny.
Other family members support the woman’s account.
A man who identified himself as a cousin of the victim said he had been around the corner when the incident occurred. “They laid him out and for whatever reason, they shot him in the back, knowing mentally, he has complications. Every officer in this area, from the Newton Division, knows that — that this child has mental problems,” the man said.
“The excessive force … there was no purpose for it. The multiple shootings in the back while he’s laying down? No. Then when the mom comes, they don’t try to console her … they pull the billy clubs out.”
Local news coverage from the time of the incident:
The autopsy conducted by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office showed that Ford suffered gunshot wounds to the arm, back and right flank. The wounds to his back and flank were fatal, it said. Toxicology tests showed Ford had marijuana in his system at the time of his death.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told a news conference Monday that the autopsy report was only part of a comprehensive probe into the shooting and that investigators were still seeking to corroborate the officers’ account.
“There is nothing in the coroner’s report that is inconsistent with the statements given to us by our officers,” he said. “We are still looking for witnesses. We still are looking for other versions of events.”
Beck said that, according to that account, Ford was grappling with one officer when his partner shot Ford in the arm and flank.
The officer struggling with Ford then reached around Ford from the ground to shoot him in the back at point-blank range, leaving muzzle marks on his skin, Beck said.
The officers have said the incident began when they sought to question Ford and he responded by making suspicious movements with his hands, then crouching behind a parked car.
Beck had been criticized for refusing to make public the autopsy report and was ordered by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to release it by the end of this year.