LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Los Angeles police chief and his department’s independent watchdog have found that a fatal close-range shooting of a 25-year-old black man by officers last year was justified, a department source said.
However, the findings by Chief Charlie Beck and the inspector general are only recommendations to the Police Commission, which will determine after a hearing next week whether the shooting of Ezell Ford was within department policy.
They were confirmed Friday night to The Associated Press by a Police Department employee with knowledge of the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release the findings.
The chief and inspector general both found that evidence supported the officers’ contention that they shot Ford because he was trying to grab an officer’s gun.
That evidence included Ford’s DNA on the gun. A previously released autopsy report in the case also appeared to support the officers’ account, police said.
The inspector general, however, found that the officers’ tactics were problematic in the way they first approached Ford, saying that they should have kept their distance, pulled their weapons and given him instructions instead of engaging him directly.
The findings, which were first reported by the Los Angeles Times, will be delivered in reports to the Police Commission for a closed-session hearing on Tuesday.
Commission President Steve Soboroff acknowledged that he had received the recommendations along with depositions and other evidence, but said he was forbidden by law to reveal what they said.
He emphasized that it’s the commission’s decision in the end whether the shooting was within policy.
“The jury hasn’t decided,” he said. “The adjudication has not happened.”
According to the LAPD, Ford was acting suspiciously when he caught officers’ attention in August. He allegedly knocked one officer to the ground and was grappling for the officer’s holstered weapon when his partner fired two shots. The fallen officer pulled out a backup gun and shot Ford in the back, Beck said last year.
The killing inspired several peaceful protests and marches through Los Angeles, where demonstrators connected the death with that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, just days earlier.
Ford’s parents believe the shooting was unjustified. They have filed a federal civil lawsuit and $75 million claim against the city alleging the two gang officers knew Ford from the neighborhood and were aware he had mental problems.
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