LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An autopsy report on the death of Ezell Ford, who was killed by two Los Angeles police officers in August, shows he was shot three times, twice fatally.
The Los Angeles Police Department lifted an administrative hold Monday on an autopsy report from the Aug. 11 officer-involved shooting that killed Ford, 25, a black man his family says was mentally challenged. Ford was pronounced dead at California Hospital Medical Center.
According to KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta, the report said Ford was shot three times on his right side.
Two of the gunshot wounds were fatal — to the right flank and the right back, and Ford was also shot in his right arm, according to the report.
According to the report, two doctors consulted for gunshot wound appearance concurred that the wound in Ford’s back had a muzzle imprint, indicating the shot was fired at close range.
The report, which also determined that Ford tested positive for marijuana, ruled Ford’s death a homicide.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck urged residents not to jump to conclusions about the shooting based on the autopsy, calling the report “a piece of a much larger, more detailed investigation.”
“An autopsy is an important piece,” he said. “An autopsy shows manner and cause of death. But an autopsy does not proscribe motivation nor does it indicate propriety, in this case, was it a legal shooting or not.”
The chief also stressed that while no conclusions have been reached about whether the shooting was justified, “there is nothing in the coroner’s report that is inconsistent with the statements given to us by the officers.”
The department said Ford, who was unarmed, was shot after he struggled with officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas and went for one of their guns, but witnesses told a different version of the events.
Beck gave a more detailed description at Monday’s news conference, saying the officers spotted Ford on a sidewalk and approached him, but Ford walked away and appeared to be trying to conceal his hands.
When the officers caught up to him, one of the officers “reached for Mr. Ford, when Mr. Ford suddenly turned and grabbed the officer, forcing him to the ground,” Beck said.
“While on top of the officer, Mr. Ford grabbed the officer’s handgun and attempted to remove the gun from the officer’s holster. The officer yelled to his partner that Mr. Ford had his gun. The officer’s partner then fired two rounds, striking Mr. Ford. At about the same time, the officer on the ground, while on his back, grabbed his backup weapon, reached around Mr. Ford and fired one shot at close range, striking Mr. Ford in the back,” Beck said.
The fatal shooting became even more controversial after the LAPD ordered the coroner’s office to keep the autopsy under seal.
The department said they asked for the hold because they wanted to interview more witnesses before its release.
A source tells CBS2/KCAL9’s Rachel Kim the Ford family had an independent autopsy conducted, the results of which are said to be “quite different” from police findings.
Ford family attorney Steven Lerman reacted to Beck’s remarks Monday night.
“You don’t shoot people in the back. Period. Under these circumstances. This is not a fleeing felon with a gun shooting over his shoulder when he ran. This is not that. This is not someone driving a car trying to hit officers. This was not that. There was an unprovoked assault on Mr. Ford,” Lerman said in part.
Beck said the results from the shooting investigation remain, at best, months away.
“I ordered the autopsy’s release because transparency is key to the trust between the LAPD and the people they serve. That trust is the foundation of a powerful partnership that has cut crime to record lows, and that has bridged historic divides with respect. It’s important to all of us that this partnership continues,” Garcetti said Monday in a statement. “That’s why a full and impartial investigation is ongoing. That’s why witnesses must come forward without delay. And that’s why violence in our streets or against the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department will not be tolerated. Last night’s incident reminds us of the risks our officers face everyday.”
Two LAPD officers were shot at in an “ambush” Sunday night in South LA, police said. One suspect is still outstanding.
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