On Monday night while, 1,800 miles away, Ferguson was rioting over the shooting of Michael Brown, Ezell Ford was walking down a street in Los Angeles.
It wasn’t the nicest street. Florence, where Ford was walking, has one of the highest rates of violence in Los Angeles County.
It’s not clear what Ford was doing. Ford had a history of mental illness and had been convicted of marijuana possession and illegal possession of a loaded firearm. In January, he was put on probation for trespassing in Long Beach. But there’s not yet information about what he was doing wrong, if anything. And it’s not yet clear why he was stopped by police.
What is clear: After he was stopped, Ford was killed, shot by two members of the Los Angeles Police Department.
According to the LAPD’s news release, two veteran gang officers saw Ford walking on a South Los Angeles sidewalk Monday night and stopped their patrol car and attempted to speak to him. But Ford, the statement said, “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 other officer, police said, “fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon at the individual.”
Police said Ford was detained, then transported to a hospital where he later died.
Ford’s relatives have offered a vastly different account of what transpired Monday.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Dorene Henderson, a family friend, witnessed part of the incident and “saw no struggle between the officers and Ford.” Henderson said that neighbors began yelling at the officers: “He’s got mental problems.”
Ford’s parents said he was diagnosed with depression and later schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A man who identified himself as Ford’s cousin told Los Angeles news station KTLA: “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. In addition: “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.”
KTLA reported that Ford’s mother, Tritobia Ford, said her son “was lying on the ground and complying with the officers’ commands when he was shot three times.”
“My heart is so heavy,” she told the station. “My son was a good kid. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did.”
Police took another view.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said, according to the Times.
Ford, Smith said, “didn’t comply with any of the officers’ instructions. He was grabbing the officer’s gun with the officer underneath him.”
The LAPD said it is still investigating the shooting “in coordination with investigators from the Office of the Inspector General and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.”
“The LAPD views any loss of human life as a great tragedy,” the news release said.
The Times reported that Ford had prior convictions for marijuana possession and illegal possession of a loaded firearm.
Ford’s family has hired the former attorney for Rodney King, according to the Times. LAPD officers accused of beating King in 1991 were acquitted the following year, prompting riots during which 54 people died.