Now that the Los Angeles Police Department has authorized the release of Ezell Ford’s autopsy report there remains one unanswered question -– Why?
We did not need an autopsy report to tell us what we already knew: that a deadly force incident occurred; that a human being, Ezell Ford, died as a result of the deadly force incident; and that Ford’s death was a “homicide” -- in other words, “a death at the hands of another”. It is important to understand that an autopsy report is merely the medical examiner’s professional opinion as to the cause and circumstance of death. So then, Ezell Ford died as a result of (three) gunshot wounds (to the side, back, and arm) fired by LAPD officers. But then we already knew that.
Chief Beck, please explain what criminal activity, if any, Ford had been suspected of committing as he walked down 65th Street.
As an honorably retired 20-year veteran sergeant of the LAPD, a mother, and concerned citizen, the question that begs to be answered is -– Why? It would have been more helpful to understand what happened between the LAPD gang officers and Ford if the department had released its Use of Force report. The UOF report would answer the one question that matters most, in my opinion -- Why?
Why did the officers stop Ford in the first place? What probable cause or reasonable suspicion did the officers have when they confronted Ford? Chief Beck, please explain what criminal activity, if any, Ford had been suspected of committing as he walked down 65th Street. It was reported that Ford had been acting “suspicious,” that the officers “could not see Ford’s hands,” and that the officers wanted to “talk” to Ford. It would have been helpful if the autopsy report explained what the LAPD officers meant by “suspicious” in their version of events. It would have been important if the autopsy report explained whether or not “hand-hiding” was a crime worthy of an “investigative stop." The autopsy’s reported findings did not provide the “why”.
A UOF Report would explain in detail the tactics the officers used moments prior to the use of force incident that subsequently killed Ford. As highly trained professionals, police officers are expected and really required to exercise good judgment, use common sense, and constantly assess and reassess encounters with the public in the escalation and de-escalation of force. Chief Charlie Beck understands that absent probable cause, reasonable suspicion or whatever other justification he wants to proffer -– EVERYTHING that happened after Ezell Ford was initially detained is problematic.
Police officers are prohibited from stopping or detaining anyone unless there is a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is or has occurred and that this particular individual is involved in that criminal activity. Absent a legal detention, the interaction is consensual, which means you are free to walk away at any time. It would appear that Ezell Ford believed he was free to walk away having committed no criminal act. EVERYTHING that happened after the officers exited their police car, engaged Ford, and subsequently shot him in the side, back, and arm is problematic.
While “the why?” is at the heart of this shooting, I understand that Chief Beck will not and possibly cannot answer “why”. No, the LAPD must do what it does best, circle the wagons, protect the department and City of Los Angeles from civil liability, and thereby mitigate the actions and tactics of the officers before, during and after the deadly shooting. So we will all wait for the "why" to be answered in civil court where the police department can no longer hide behind a confidential administrative investigation or the like.
Black & Blue