L.A. police officers shot unarmed black man three times: autopsy

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 29, 2014 6:40 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An unarmed 25-year-old black man slain by Los Angeles police officers in August suffered three gunshot wounds, including one to his back, a long-awaited autopsy report into the killing showed on Monday.

Police have said two officers shot Ezell Ford, described by a family lawyer as mentally challenged, on Aug. 11 after he struggled with one of them and tried to grab the officer's holstered gun.

Ford's death, which came just days after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, touched off demonstrations outside police headquarters in Los Angeles.

More protests were expected for Monday afternoon following release of the report, which was completed some time ago but kept under wraps by police officials during their investigation into the incident.

The autopsy conducted by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office showed that Ford suffered gunshot wounds to the arm, back and right flank. The wounds to his back and flank were fatal, it said. Toxicology tests showed Ford had marijuana in his system at the time of his death.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told a news conference the autopsy report was only part of a comprehensive probe into the shooting and that investigators were still seeking to corroborate the officers' account.

"There is nothing in the coroner's report that is inconsistent with the statements given to us by our officers," he said. "We are still looking for witnesses. We still are looking for other versions of events."

Beck said that, according to that account, Ford was grappling with one officer when his partner shot Ford in the arm and flank.

The officer struggling with Ford then reached around Ford from the ground to shoot him in the back at point-blank range, leaving muzzle marks on his skin, Beck said.

The officers have said the incident began when they sought to question Ford and he responded by making suspicious movements with his hands, then crouching behind a parked car.

Beck had been criticized for refusing to make public the autopsy report and was ordered by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to release it by the end of this year.

During his news conference, Beck called for calm, saying the investigation was far from over.

"Let the system work," he said.

Ford's family has filed a federal lawsuit over the shooting, seeking $75 million in damages.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Michael Fleeman; Editing by Steve Gorman, David Gregorio and Peter Cooney)