This article has been updated at the bottom to include a list of local events commemorating the two-year anniversary of Ezell Ford’s death on Thursday, August 11 for those inclined to partake or cover.
We’re not against the police. We’re not against the police department, but we are against police who commit misconduct (and those who help cover it up).
The two Los Angeles police officers that were involved in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ezell Ford nearly two years ago in South Los Angeles have filed a racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles.
Officers Antonio (Tony) Villegas and Shartlon Wampler allege that after they killed Ford and during the investigation they were temporarily removed from the field, benched and assigned administrative duties—where they currently remain.
Rather than just take you through Villegas and Wampler’s lawsuit—which you can read here—since we’re a week out from the two-year anniversary of Ford’s death I thought someone should provide a real retrospective looking at the bigger picture and the roles folks are playing in this never-ending saga. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey shenanigans are sure to culminate in some large amount of money changing hands in the form of a settlement or jury verdict for these two officers.
So let’s begin.
A resident of South Los Angeles, Ford, 25, was the oldest of seven children. Ford was shot and killed by the LAPD near the intersection 65th Street and Broadway Avenue on August 11, 2014 after he allegedly attempted to grab the firearm of one of the officers. After his death, his parents said their son had been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and that everybody in the neighborhood, as well as police, were aware of this. They recalled that Ford had become more introverted and melancholy around the age of 18 and took medication that made him less active.
Current status: Deceased, Inglewood Park Cemetery
Officers Antonio (Tony) Villegas and Sharlton Wampler
Officers Antonio (Tony) Villegas and Sharlton Wampler claim that on August 11, 2014 while working the gang detail out of LAPD’s Newton Division in South Los Angeles that they were attacked by Ezell Ford. They claim that Ford attempted to grab Wampler’s gun. In fear of his life and that of his partner, Officer Wampler, while on the ground struggling with Ford was able to get to his secondary firearm attached to his left and shot Ford who died at the scene. The autopsy report confirmed that Ford was shot three times, in the back, side and right arm. The gunshot wound in his back bore a “muzzle imprint” suggesting the shot was fired at very close range. It also noted multiple abrasions to Ford’s hand and arm.
Since the shooting, Villegas and Wampler have been taken out of the field and placed on administrative duty. This was supposed to be temporary as it is customary when there’s an officer-involved-shooting for the officers involved to be briefly benched during the following investigation.
On the eve of their one-year deadline to sue for damages, both Villegas and Wampler filed a racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. Villegas is Latino and Wampler is white. Villegas says he was denied an outside work permit and Wampler says he missed out on his patrol bonus. Both of them claim that they are being denied assignments, transfer, overtime and the opportunity to promote. They cite Officer Stephan Shuff’s 2015 fatal shooting of a man that was found out of policy by both Chief Beck and the Police Commission. By the time the decision had came down from the commission and Beck, Shuff has already been returned to the field and since then has moved into a highly sought after position in the Department’s Metro Division. Shuff is Black.
They both say that they have been personally humiliated, suffered damage to their reputations and have undergone great mental and physical pain owing to nervousness.
Current status: Alive, under desk arrest and hoping for a major payday to make up for all that they’ve endured.
As is the case in any officer-involved-shooting, an investigation was undertaken by the Department’s Force Investigation Division affectionately referred to as FID. The facts of the investigation were given to the Use of Force Review Board that found all aspects of the shooting, including the tactics, to be within policy.
Unfortunately, the investigation is thought by many to be tainted because folks see it as a case of Bonnie investigating Clyde. It also didn’t help that the lead investigator on the case found herself in a bit of hot water.
Current status: After 10 months the investigation was deemed complete
The Los Angeles Police Commission
According to Villegas and Wampler’s lawsuit, the Police Commission is an “inexperienced group of political appointees” who overturned the Department’s ruling that the shooting was within policy.
On June 9, 2015 the commission rejected a recommendation by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to clear the officers of any wrongdoing. They faulted Villegas and Wampler for drawing their guns and criticized the tactics used by the latter.
The Police Commission has no control over officer discipline so really their ruling is more of a symbolic gesture than anything else. Beck has already made it clear that he doesn’t think the officers did anything wrong and he alone oversees officer’s discipline.
Anyway, not long after the commission’s “opinion” as I refer to it, then vice-president Paula Madison, an African-American female, left the board and was replaced with attorney Matt Johnson—also an African-American. Johnson immediately replaced Steve Soboroff as president of the board.
Current status: Meets almost every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at LAPD headquarters. Popcorn and Red Vines aren’t required but recommended.
Inspector General Alex Bustamante
The Police Commission’s Inspector General and community “watch dog” Alex Bustamante recommended that the commission conclude that the shooting was justified. Bustamante pointed to evidence of the alleged struggle with Ford over Wampler’s gun.
Current status: Weeding out corruption in the Department (or so we hope)
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck
L.A.’s top cop has made it clear that he believes that the shooting of Ezell Ford was within Department policy and that he doesn’t fault the officers.
It’s fair to say that he was none to pleased with the Police Commission’s decision to say otherwise and took the opportunity to remind the rank-and-file that he’s got their backs. After Sergeant Jim Parker and Officer Clifford Proctor, it’s doubtful though that anyone really believes him but it didn’t stop Beck from reading the cue cards and having the message sent out anyway.
Beck’s been low key on the Ezell Ford shooting since the Commission’s ruling—and with good cause.
First, while Black Lives Matter Los Angeles continues to call for his firing—they’ve all but abandoned the daily calls for the firing of the two officers involved in the killing of Ezell Ford. Remember, whether Beck or Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti admit it—many believe it was the numerous protests and very loud cries for information that led Garcetti to put Beck on the spot and announce that Ford’s autopsy would be released before year’s end in 2014. Much to the chagrin of Beck it was. Beck had placed a “security hold” on the autopsy report claiming that the findings would affect witnesses’ testimonies. All that did was fuel even more suspicion and side eyes toward the Department.
Second, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey appears to have done Beck a solid by claiming that her office is looking into whether or not they want to file criminal charges against Villegas and or Wampler. No one really believes that Lacey or her office are still investigating an investigation that was completed within 10 months of the original shooting. But as I pointed out before, as long as she says that’s the case, the clock is stopped for Beck in terms of having to dish out any discipline—discipline that normally wouldn’t be made public. Normally 😆.
But back to Villegas and Wampler.
Beck went from publicly saying the officers did the right thing to privately leaving them in limbo for nearly two years. Talk about mixed messages.
I’m generally not a conspiracy theorist but one could theorize that this is one way for Beck to look out for Villegas and Wampler and essentially hand them a million dollar payday by purposefully keeping them on desk duty when he knows Lacey is tolling the clock for him and that like any other officer, sooner or later they would sue. I wouldn’t put it past him.
Current status: Chillin’ like a villain on the 10th floor
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey
While it only took 6 months for D.A. Jackie Lacey to announce assault charges on one of the officers involved in the heinous takedown of 22-year-old Clinton Alford who was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in South Los Angeles, it’s been over a year since she announced her office was considering whether or not to file criminal charges against Villegas and or Wampler.
Again, no one with any sense for how these things go believes that Lacey or her office are still two years later– investigating an investigation that was completed within 10 months of the original incident.
As long as D.A. Lacey sticks to her story the clock is stopped and Chief Beck doesn’t have to do a damn thing. It’s called tolling. Tolling allows for the pausing or delaying of the running of the period of time set forth by a statute of limitations.
No one is under the impression that Lacey has any intentions on filing criminal charges against Villegas or Wampler.
Lacey skated through her reelection last June running unopposed subsequently wining without the need to campaign or a November runoff.
Current status: Waiting for the word from Beck so she can quietly announce on a Friday afternoon, preferably three-day holiday weekend, that she’s not going to file charges.
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles (BLMLA)
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles was one of the loudest groups calling for answers and discipline in the death of Ezell Ford.
From marches to protests, Ezell Ford’s death became the poster child for officer-involved-shooting deaths in Los Angeles in 2014 and 2015.
BLMLA famously set up camp in front of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house and caught him on video trying to sneak out the back door–hence their nickname for him “L.A.’s Back Door Mayor.” This led to Garcetti being caught in a number of untruths about his trip to Washington D.C. and further embarrassment. Needless to say, he is considered a foe and not a friend to BLMLA.
Many in the community believe that Garcetti caved in due to the bad press and the pressure from BLMLA and others including the South Central Neighborhood Council that passed a resolution calling on Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price to direct the LAPD to release Ford’s autopsy report. Garcetti inserted himself and proclaimed that Ford’s autopsy would be released before the end of the year and to his credit it was.
But as the bodies of folks killed by the LAPD or while in their custody continued to pile up, BLMLA seemed to be pulled in too many different directions and slowly but surely their calls for justice for Ezell Ford became more and more scant until there were hardly any at all.
Current status: City Hall East 24/7 until Mayor Garcetti fires Chief Beck
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Mayor Garcetti has said very little regarding the death of Ezell Ford after he forced Chief Beck to release the autopsy findings before the end of the year in 2014. He was none to pleased about Black Lives Matter Los Angeles camping out in front of his house in 2015 or the bad press that followed.
As of late, BLMLA has been outside of City Hall around the clock for the past three weeks calling on Garcetti to fire Beck.
Garcetti has said on numerous occasions that he stands behind Chief Beck and has no intentions on firing him.
Currently, Garcetti is in Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Current status: Gearing up for reelection
Tritobia Ford & the Ford Family
Through all of this, one place where Ezell Ford’s name is never forgotten and mentioned daily is with his family, in particular by his mother Tritobia Ford.
Even though the labor union that represents the rank-and-file LAPD officers embarked on character assassination after the fact on her son, Mrs. Ford has maintained from day one that her son was not in a gang and that he was mentally ill and had been diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic.
Ford’s family has filed a $75 million wrongful death lawsuit.
In a recent interview Mrs. Ford explained to me that she still calls D.A. Lacey’s office on a regular basis looking for an answer on whether or not she’s going to charge the officers involved in her son’s death but admits that it might be time for more drastic measures. She is currently planning to chain herself to Lacey’s office in hopes of calling attention to the two-year timeline since her son’s death and the fact that neither Chief Beck or Lacey have said anything.
Current status: At Home Depot checking out locks and chains
Alrighty folks, here’s a list of events taking place on Thursday, August 11 in Los Angeles to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the death of Ezell Ford for those inclined to partake or cover.
Community Coalition for Control Over the Police
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s Office
210 W. Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Soul Food Dinner in Remembrance of Ezell Ford
Black Lives Matter So Cal (Los Angeles, I.E., Long Beach, Pasadena, et al)
City Hall East
200 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Friends and Family of Ezell Ford
65th and Broadway, South Los Angeles