The Los Angeles City Council yesterday agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Ezell Ford over the fatal shooting of the mentally-impaired South Los Angeles man by LAPD officers in 2014.
The settlement comes just weeks after the District Attorney’s Office declined to press any charges against the officers who shot Ford, whose death has been a rallying cry for angry protests against the department over police shootings of black suspects.
A tentative agreement between attorneys for Edsell and Tritobia Ford, the father and mother of Ezell Ford, and the city was announced in November 2016 after they filed a lawsuit, but no terms were divulged and court papers said the settlement was “conditional.”
The District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division concluded in January that Los Angeles police Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others” when they shot Ford, although the Police Commission ruled in 2015 that one of them was justified in opening fire, but the other violated department policy. The commission did not specify which officer acted improperly.
Ford, 25, was shot in the 200 block of West 65th Street in South Los Angeles at 8:10 p.m. on Aug. 11, 2014.
Police and prosecutors said Wampler and Villegas, both LAPD Newton Area gang enforcement officers, approached Ford because he was acting suspiciously and may have been attempting to discard an illegal substance.
A struggle ensued, and 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,” according to the District Attorney’s Office report. “In fear for their lives, Villegas and Wampler each responded with deadly force.”
Ford was shot three times and taken to California Medical Center Hospital, where he died less than two hours later.
The D.A.’s report said Wampler’s holster tested positive for Ford’s “touch” DN—- with the DNA either coming from Ford’s sweat, skin or saliva—which “corroborates that Ford’s hand was touching Wampler’s holster during this incident.”
Blood stains on the front of Wampler’s utility belt and uniform shirt are consistent with Ford lying on top of Wampler when he was shot, and Wampler’s uniform appeared to have dirt on the back of the shirt and the pants, prosecutors wrote in the report.
Four witnesses made statements that substantially contradicted the officers’ accounts in several areas, with each saying that one or both of the officers were on top of Ford, according to the report.
According to the lawsuit filed in March 2015, Wampler and Villegas—who were named defendants along with the city and LAPD—”intentionally and/or negligently fatally shot unarmed decedent Ezell Ford multiple times with their firearms” after he had complied with their order to lie on the ground.
The Ford settlement adds to the growing financial fallout from deadly LAPD shootings. Two months ago, the city agreed to pay $8 million to setttle lawsuits stemming from the fatal shootings of three unarmed men. The costly payouts have resulted in city officials having to borrow money to help pay for legal settlements, and also to explore ways to rebuild trust between the LAPD and residents of South and East Los Angeles.