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Judge Says LAPD Chief Beck Owes Us Answers About Ezell Ford's Death

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A federal judge ruled yesterday that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck must answer certain questions about the shooting death of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old unarmed black man shot and killed by police in South L.A. in August.

Ezell Ford was shot and killed by two officers who attempted to stop him while he was walking in Florence, after they claim he became hostile and tried to grab an officer's gun. While Beck himself said that the officers acted within policy, the Police Commission that oversees the LAPD found that while one officer acted within policy, the other did not.

Ford's family is suing the City of Los Angeles, and that trial is scheduled for November. Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle said that Beck will have to answer questions from the Ford family's lawyer, KPCC reports.

"This is not the ordinary case. It's a high-profile, high-visibility case, and whether the policy of the policymaker—the police commission—is being enforced or implemented appropriately, I think this is something on which Chief Beck can, and in this case should, be questioned," Nagle said.

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The Fords' attorney, Federico Sayre, said he will likely talk to Beck for two hours at the LAPD's downtown headquarters next month, NBC LA reports. He said that to the best of his knowledge, the last time an LAPD chief was deposed in a civil lawsuit, it was in 1994, when he questioned Daryl Gates about the Rodney King beating.

Sayre also called the Commission's decision a "monumental win," and said that, "Chief Beck is like any other citizen. He has to answer for what he said."

On August 11 at about 8:20 p.m., LAPD Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas saw Ford walking in the 200 block of 65th Street in Florence and thought he looked suspicious because he had his hands in his pockets and seemed anxious. When the two officers tried to stop Ford to question him, they said he quickly walked away from him. The officers said that Ford became hostile when Wampler tried to handcuff him, turning around and knocking Wampler over and reaching for his gun. Villegas then opened fire on Ford, and Wampler used his backup gun to also shoot Ford. The Commission found that Wampler was out of policy to try to stop Ford in the first place. They found Villegas wrong to draw his gun, but that it was okay for him to fire, as he believed his partner was in danger. Ford's family has said that he had a history of mental illness.