LAPD Releases Names Of Officers Who Fatally Shot An Unarmed, Mentally Ill Man
After keeping them under wraps, the LAPD released the names of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford, an unarmed and mentally ill man in South L.A., more than two weeks after the tragic incident that has sparked outrage in the community.
Authorities yesterday named Officer Sharlton Wampler and Officer Antonio Villegas of the Newton Division's gang enforcement detail, according to the L.A. Times. Wampler has been on the police force for 12 years and Villegas for eight.
The shooting of 25-year-old Ford on August 11 ignited protests in the community as they've been demanding names of the officers since the shooting occurred, as well as for a quicker and transparent investigation. LAPD said in a statement that they had been holding onto the names because "it was necessary to investigate evidence brought to the department's attention regarding potential threats to the safety of the officers and ensure that measures were taken to mitigate those threats."
Just a day before the LAPD's announcement, Los Angeles blogger Jasmyne Cannick had leaked the names of the officers early, saying she got them from "a reliable source." She got one of the two names correct. The Huffington Post asked the LAPD whether Cannick's report was the reason why they released the names of the officers on Thursday; however, an LAPD spokesman did not comment on it.
The LAPD requested a "security hold" on Ford's autopsy report because they do not want witness testimony to be tainted by the results. Though LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith told KPCC that this is a regular practice for the department, others feel that holding back the results from the public only makes LAPD look more suspicious.
"The blocking of the autopsy report of Ford comes on the heels of the release of the autopsy report on Michael Brown which contradicted the police version of how Brown was killed," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. "The blocking of the release Ford autopsy report further fuels suspicions about the LAPD's version of the Ford killing."
There have been conflicting reports on Ford's shooting. According to the LAPD, on the night of the shooting, the officers stopped Ford near West 65th Street near Broadway, saying that he made "suspicious movements" and attempted to "conceal his hands." Police say that when they approached Ford, he turned around, tackled one of the officers and tried to swipe his gun. The officer's partner responded by opening fire at Ford. The officer on the ground then shot Ford with his backup gun. However, a friend of Ford's family said she witnessed the incident and did not see a struggle at all. Ford's mother, Tritobia Ford, said that her son was complying with the officers' orders and was on the ground when he was shot in the back three times. He later died at the hospital.
Ford's parents said their son was diagnosed with depression and later schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to the Washington Post.
"My heart is so heavy," Ford told KTLA. "My son was a good kid. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did."
Authorities still have not released information on why Ford was stopped in the first place, despite pleas from his family and the community.