Two days after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, another young, unarmed black man was killed without rhyme or reason. His name was Ezell Ford. He was 25 years old and suffered from bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.
On Friday, his killing was ruled justified by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. Now the Police Commission, a civilian panel that is supposed to oversee the department in serious claims of police misconduct, said it will reveal its findings on Tuesday, but all they can do is make recommendations, which the LAPD is sure to ignore.
Ford was out walking near his home on that tragic day, August 11, 2014, not committing any crimes or participating in any wrongdoing when he was approached by two LAPD “Shootin Newton” cops, Sharlton Wampler, No. 36135, and Antonio Villegas, No. 38218, both from the department’s Newton Division, renowned for killing so many citizens over the years, hence the nickname.
The officers reportedly claimed that they believed Ford was attempting to discard drugs as he walked – although the department has never reported finding any drugs on the scene.
As they confronted Ford for “suspicious movements”, Wampler immediately put his hands on him – a move that was against department protocol.
The officers claim that a struggle ensued and that Ford was attempting to grab the officer’s service weapon. Witnesses have maintained that Ford was shot in the back, execution style, after complying with the officer’s orders to get down on the ground, a story given even more credibility after the autopsy report, which you can read here. detailed a muzzle imprint left in Ford’s back.
When his mother, Tritobia Ford, arrived on the scene, she was tackled by officers and threatened with arrest as she cried out, “that’s my baby down there!” She says the police subsequently refused to inform her where her son was being hospitalized.
Four days after Ford’s death, his cousin, DaMonte Marquise Shipp Sr., 22, aka Ceebo Tha Rapper, uploaded a powerful music video to YouTube expressing his anger and frustration with police.
“How the fuck can they tell us we’re free, when the PD is the enemy?” Ceebo rapped in his song ‘Fuck Tha Police’.
Following the release of the video, he was character assassinated by the police and the media, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, a union representing rank and file officers, said they were in fear for their lives because they said the video threatening towards officers.
“All officers should be aware of this video and are advised to be on heightened alert and pay extra attention to your tactics and surroundings,” a police union email warned.
In response to the attacks on his art and his character, Ceebo released another song, directly addressing Police Chief Charlie Beck.
“Mister you used your weapon, what, you trying to send a message? So what’s the message? You the man? Behave or beheaded? Well we gonna raise our hands, and we’re going to all unite. Mister, you killed Ezell Ford. Mister, that ain’t right.” He rapped in his follow up.
In October, Shipp was sentenced to 17-years in prison for a crime he likely did not commit, stemming from a September 25th, 2013 incident where two homes were robbed. Two witnesses, a mother and son, told police they saw the back of the suspect’s head. Police took that information and arrested Shipp, who was walking around with a friend several miles away.
The arrest was made despite the witnesses telling police the suspect was wearing a white shirt and Shipp’s shirt was black.
The witnesses were then brought to the scene where he was arrested and asked to do a field ID. Despite instructions not to use the fact that he was handcuffed as a determining factor on whether on not Shipp was the person they saw, both witnesses would testify that they identified Ceebo by skin tone, clothing and the handcuffs. There were no fingerprints or other evidence linking Shipp to the crime, only the faulty field ID.
Many believe that he was railroaded and given the harsh sentencing in retaliation for his activism.
The department initially refused to name the officers involved in the Ford shooting, so journalist and activist Jasmyne Cannick took matters into her own hands, releasing the names on August 27, forcing the department to make a statement and confirm the officers’ names.
The LAPD also refused to share his autopsy results for 134 days, citing “officer safety” among the reasons for delays, following the December shooting of two New York Police Department officers.
In December, the mayor of Los Angeles ordered the results to be released before the end of the year. The report was eventually released on December 29, revealing that Ford had been shot three times at close range in his back, side and arm.
On March 14, 2015, the main witness to Ford’s killing, Leroy Hill, 46, was mysteriously shot and killed by the same intersection where Ford lost his life. Hill was in his vehicle when he was shot and crashed his vehicle. The police have claimed that it may have been “gang related,” despite not having a description of any suspect or any leads that might solve the crime. Relatives, friends, and activists have asserted that they believe his death may have been something more sinister, with possible “Shootin Newton” police involvement.
The family has filed a federal lawsuit over the shooting, seeking $75 million in damages, as well as a second lawsuit against the police department and city, alleging that Ford was targeted for excessive force due to racial profiling.
The two officers remain armed and dangerous with the Los Angeles Police Department.