Beck speaks to media about Ford autopsy. ABC7.com screen grab.
Post updated a few times on 12-29
The LAPD today removed its security hold on the coroner's autopsy of Ezell Ford, Jr., leading to its release after months of controversial delay. The LA Times says the report shows that Ford, a mentally ill man who was unarmed, was shot three times -- in the side, in the back and in the right arm. A "muzzle imprint" over the back wound indicates it came from very close range. See the full report.
Ford, 25, was killed in a confrontation with LAPD gang officers on Aug. 11 in the Newton division in South Los Angeles. The LAPD has said Ford struggled with two officers and was shot after he tried to grab one of the officers' guns from its holster. Witnesses have disputed the account of a struggle with officers. The coroner's report today does not deal with the differing versions of what happened, sticking to an evaluation of the wounds. The autopsy concluded that the death was a homicide, or death at the hands of another, a common finding in police shootings that in and of itself does not suggest a crime was committed.
The LAPD had put a hold months ago on public release of the autopsy, a step sometimes taken to help investigators by keeping certain details away from the public. In this case, the secrecy raised distrust among family and community members, and Mayor Garcetti in November took the unusual step of promising that the autopsy report would be released before the end of the year.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has scheduled a 2:30 p.m. press conference to discuss the case and last night's shooting attack on officers in South LA. The officers were not hit in the incident on Hoover Street near 62nd Place. They returned fire and a citywide alert was briefly called.
Family members have said that Ford was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Demonstrations were held Sunday in a couple of locations by Ford family members joined by community supporters and activists, and by supporters of the LAPD. The Ford family called for release of the autopsy report and for a peaceful response to whatever is in the report.
The Ezell Ford autopsy, coming out now, hits the media in the aftermath of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., Los Angeles and elsewhere over the killing of unarmed black man Michael Brown and other police killings of unarmed black suspects where no prosecution of officers followed.
The LAPD's version of what happened is this, from a department website in August:
On August 11, 2014 at approximately 8:10 p.m., two uniformed LAPD officers driving in a marked police car and assigned to the Newton Area Gang Enforcement Detail (GED) were driving westbound on 65th Street approaching Broadway when they saw a man walking on an adjacent sidewalk. The officers stopped the patrol car, exited the vehicle, and attempted to talk to the individual. After looking in the officers' direction, however, the individual continued walking and made suspicious movements, including attempting to conceal his hands.
When the officers got closer and attempted to stop the individual, the individual turned, grabbed one of the officers, and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, they fell to the ground and the individual attempted to remove the officer's handgun from its holster. The partner officer then fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon at the individual.
After the officers fired their handguns at the individual, they were able to handcuff him and call for a rescue ambulance. Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics arrived and transported the individual to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Ford's parents in September filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD.
In his press conference today, Beck says new witnesses have not come forward with information about the Ford shooting. He cautioned that the autopsy report offers just one set of facts in the ongoing investigation, and that nothing in the report contradicts the LAPD officers' account of what happened. It will take months before a report is made to the police commission on what happened. "This investigation is far from over," Beck said. "We will find out the truth of what happened that August night. We need the public's help."
The delay in releasing the autopsy was ordered, Beck said, because the Ford's family lawyer said there were numerous witnesses to what happened but they were not made available to the LAPD.
Statement from City Council member Curren Price:
Today is only a first step towards getting the answers we have been seeking in the death of Ezell Ford. While I wanted to see this report released earlier, at least now we can move our focus towards the release of LAPD's investigative report, because transparency is important but equally so, accountability.
Los Angeles is a city that has known tension and struggle between its police department and its communities of color, but we have emerged stronger from those experiences and today I hope we can continue being a model for the nation. I intend to do everything in my power to secure an expedited release of the LAPD's investigative report and in the meantime I urge residents to remain calm. While many of us may feel justified frustration about the current state of police community relations across the country, we need to vocalize our concerns in a peaceful and constructive manner so we don't negate the progress that has been made. No matter how emotional some may feel, violence should never be condoned, against citizens or police officers.
I also continue to urge any witnesses in this incident to come forward. The only way we can get an accurate account of what truly happened is if we have witnesses tell us exactly what they saw.