Joel Rubin and Kate Mather, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
LOS ANGELES (The L.A. Times) — Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and the Police Department’s independent watchdog have determined that two officers were justified in fatally shooting Ezell Ford, a mentally ill black man whose killing last year sparked protests and debate over the use of deadly force by police, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.
Department investigators found evidence indicating that Ford had fought for control of one officer’s gun, bolstering claims the officers made after the shooting, said two sources who spoke on the condition that they not be identified because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.
Ford and one of the officers, Sharlton Wampler, had scratches on their hands, and the holster for Wampler’s gun was scratched as well, the sources said. Tests found Ford’s DNA on the weapon, according to the sources.
The shooting occurred Aug. 11, after Wampler and his partner, Antonio Villegas, members of an anti-gang unit in the department’s Newton Division, saw Ford walking down a street near his South L.A. home.
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.