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3 Months Later, LAPD Still Hasn't Released Autopsy In Controversial Ezell Ford Shooting
South L.A. residents are demanding more transparency in the highly-publicized cases of two men who died by the hands of police. They are urging the city to intervene and force the LAPD to turn over autopsy reports in the controversial deaths of Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego.It's been three months since LAPD officers from the Newton Division fatally shot 25-year-old Ford, an unarmed and mentally ill man in South L.A., on Aug. 11. Since then, the LAPD has given very little information on why gang officers approached Ford in the first place and haven't released the results of his autopsy report. It took two weeks after the shooting for the LAPD to release the names of officers involved. The incident ignited protests in the community as they've been demanding a quicker and transparent investigation.
The LAPD said they requested a "security hold" on Ford's autopsy report because they don't want witness testimony to be tainted by the results. "We are committed to being transparent in this case, as we are in all cases," Cmdr. Andrew Smith told the Los Angeles Times. "But these kinds of investigations, as detailed and as thorough as they are, they take some time … even though we're pushing as hard as we can to get these things done."
Craig Harvey, chief of investigations at the coroner's office, told the Times that although he has seen a long hold happen before, normally these type of security holds last only for a few weeks, not months.
The South Central Neighborhood Council passed a resolution last month demanding Councilman Curren Price get the LAPD to release Ford's autopsy report. While Price said that he understood both sides in the situation, he said, "But I am prepared to take further actions if we do not get some answers for the community soon."
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.
The neighborhood council is also urging LAPD to release the autopsy report for Abrego, 37, who died 12 hours after LAPD sergeants from the Newton Division beat him in front of his house in South L.A. on Aug. 2. They claimed they stopped Abrego because he was driving erratically and almost hit a person in the crosswalk. Some witnesses said they saw the sergeants beat Abrego for about 10 minutes and believed he died from those wounds at the hospital. The initial coroner's report said that Abrego was "combative and confused with acute cocaine intoxication." However, coroner's officials have not completed a final report because they have not determined his cause of death yet.
Smith told the Times that they requested a hold on Abrego's autopsy because they are still searching for witnesses. He said that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told investigators that the two cases "are to be their highest priority."
However, some feel that holding back the results from the public only makes the LAPD look more suspicious.
"Every day that goes by where the secrecy is maintained just increases the frustration," Cliff Smith, a member of the Neighborhood Council said. "There's no way to resolve this except to be transparent. And the police have been the opposite of transparent."
Update: 4:02 p.m.: At a press conference today, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that Ford's autopsy reports will be released to the public by the end of the year, according to City News Service. He and Beck urged witnesses of the shooting to come forward so authorities could further investigate what happened that day.