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, reports the Los Angeles Times. 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. Ford and one of the officers, Sharlton Wampler, had scratches on their hands, and the holster for Wampler’s gun was scratched as well. Tests found Ford’s DNA on the weapon.
The shooting occurred Aug. 11, after Wampler and his partner, members of an anti-gang unit, saw Ford walking down a street near his home. Alex Bustamante, police inspector general, found the shooting justified, but he faulted the officers for how they approached Ford in the moments leading up to the shooting. 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. Bustamante concluded that it was unclear whether the officers’ observations were sufficient justification to approach Ford and then try to detain him. Ford’s death became a local rallying cry against killings by police, particularly those of black men. Ford, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died two days after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.