On Tuesday, Los Angeles County prosecutors said they will not bring criminal charges against the two LAPD officers who shot and killed a man with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in South L.A. in 2014.
The shooting occurred near 65th Street and Broadway, when LAPD officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas confronted Ezell Ford as he walked down the street near his home. It happened two days after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, MO, and added to the outrage against police killing unarmed black men in questionable situations.
There are two accounts of what happened prior to the shooting—one by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and another by Inspector General Alex Bustamante.
According to Beck’s report, officers grew suspicious that Ford might have had drugs after he did not respond to their orders to stop walking. Officers told investigators Ford had just left a group of gang members.
Bustamante said officers told investigators they never saw Ford interact with the group and that he was 20 or 30 feet away from them when the officers first saw him. No drugs were found on or near Ford, the report said.
Wampler said he tried to handcuff Ford, but was tackled by him and pinned to the ground. Ford reached for his gun. That’s when Villegas fired. Wampler reached for his back up pistol while on the ground and also fired.
Black Lives Matter activists have closely monitored the case for more than 2 years, and have called the shooting unjust. In 2015, the Police Commission determined Wampler violated LAPD rules when he shot Ford. When Wampler grabbed Ford, it sparked a physical confrontation that the Police Commission says could have been avoided.
Prosecutors, however, said the shootings were justified because evidence shows Ford reached for Officer Wampler’s gun. L.A. Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey has faced some criticism over her handling of the case, particularly the amount of time it took for her office to announce its decision.