An attorney for the family of Ezell Ford filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in downtown on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Police Department in the shooting death last month of the 25-year-old South Los Angeles resident.
The attorney alleges Ezell Ford was shot in the back as he lay on the ground, accord to the legal actiion. The federal lawsuit says that, Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas—who are named
plaintiffs—engaged in an unlawful search and seizure of Ford, denied him due process, used excessive force and violated his civil rights.
“Justice will come to this family in federal court, not on TV,” said attorney Steven Lerman. “He was mentally challenged. This is not the person that’s lurking behind a corner with a gun. He’s not a gangbanger. Walking down a city street; a citizen of Los Angeles, walking down a city street unarmed at 8 p.m. on a Monday night.” Lerman, who once represented the late Rodney King in 1991 after he was pursued, stopped and beaten severely by LAPD officers, said in regard to the Ford case that officers Wampler and Villegas of Newton Division could have used a “less than lethal option” to control the situation at 65th and Broadway streets in South L.A.
One of the officers involved in the Ford shooting was a defendant in another federal civil rights lawsuit that claimed he was one of two officers who repeatedly held a man’s head under water in a violent encounter. The suit was dismissed in December 2012 due to conflicting witness statements.
An LAPD account of Ford’s death said he grabbed an officer, the pair fell to the ground and then Ford reached for the officer’s gun before both officers fired, hitting him three times. Family members described Ford as mentally ill and said he was complying with officer orders when they shot him while he was lying on the ground. Witnesses at the scene told local media that they saw no sign of Ford putting up a struggle with the officers.
“They could have used a taser, they could have wrestled him to the ground, they did not have to shoot right away,” Lerman said.