LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Los Angeles district attorney on Tuesday declined to press charges against the LAPD officers who shot to death Ezell Ford, a mentally ill black man, finding that they acted in self-defense.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office’s 28-page report said that Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas feared that Ford posed a threat to their lives when they shot the 25-year old on Aug. 11, 2014, after approaching him in a gang area close to his South L.A. home.
Ford had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
According to the report, Ford evaded the officers when they told him they wanted to talk to him. The officers said Ford was about to drop an illegal substance and that after Wampler took him by the shoulders, Ford grabbed Wampler by the waist. They grappled and fell to the ground.
“The evidence indicates that Ford was on top of Wampler, struggling to obtain Wampler’s primary service weapon and posing an immediate threat to his safety and his partner’s safety,” the report states. “In fear for their lives, Villegas and Wampler each responded with deadly force.”
Biological evidence supports the officers’ version of events, the report states. Authorities found DNA on Wampler’s holster and bloodstains on his uniform, consistent with Ford’s being on top of the officer.
“Our office has a daunting challenge each and every time there is an officer-involved shooting,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “In this case, we did everything we could to ensure a comprehensive investigation. Although the loss of Mr. Ford’s life is tragic, we believe the officers’ actions were legally justified and the evidence supports our decision.”
Ford’s death came at a time when tensions between the public and the LAPD were high — just two days after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Black Lives Matter activists, a frequent presence at police commission meetings, have highlighted Ford’s case among other instances of what they say are unjustified uses of deadly force.