January 01, 2015
Ezell Ford, whose shooting death by Los Angeles police sparked months of protests and calls by community activists for a transparent investigation, was shot once in the right side of his back, once in the right arm and once in the right abdomen, according to an autopsy released recently. According to the report, which was released after months of being subject to a security hold imposed by the Los Angeles Police Department, the gunshot wounds to the back and the abdomen were both fatal. Ford, 25, was pronounced dead in an operating room at California Hospital Medical Center, according to the report.
The autopsy noted that the gunshot wound on Ford’s back had “muzzle imprint,” indicating the shot was fired at close range. It also states that Ford had marijuana in his system. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck urged residents not to jump to conclusions about the shooting based on the autopsy, calling the report “a piece of a much larger, more detailed investigation.”
“An autopsy is an important piece,” he said. “An autopsy shows manner and cause of death. But an autopsy does not proscribe motivation nor does it indicate propriety, in this case, was it a legal shooting or not.”
The chief also stressed that while no conclusions have been reached about whether the shooting was justified, “there is nothing in the coroner’s report that is inconsistent with the statements given to us by the officers.”
Ford's autopsy had been on hold while the LAPD continued its investigation into the Aug. 11 shooting. In recent weeks, community activists have demanded the release of the autopsy, and last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed the report would be made public by the end of the year. Beck said the department placed a hold on the report so investigators could “locate and interview witnesses to the incident who are not influenced by public reports of the coroner’s findings.”
Days after the shooting in the 200 block of West 65th Street, Los Angeles police said Ford tackled one of two officers who had approached him, and Ford reached for the officer’s gun. The officers — Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas — both opened fire. Beck gave a more detailed description, saying the officers spotted Ford on a sidewalk and approached him, but Ford walked away and appeared to be trying to conceal his hands.
When the officers caught up to him, one of the officers “reached for Mr. Ford, when Mr. Ford suddenly turned and grabbed the officer, forcing him to the ground,” Beck said.
“While on top of the officer, Mr. Ford grabbed the officer’s handgun and attempted to remove the gun from the officer’s holster. The officer yelled to his partner that Mr. Ford had his gun. The officer’s partner then fired two rounds, striking Mr. Ford. At about the same time, the officer on the ground, while on his back, grabbed his backup weapon, reached around Mr. Ford and fired one shot at close range, striking Mr. Ford in the back,” Beck said.
Police initially said the officers approached the unarmed black man because he was making “suspicious movements.” Ford’s family filed a $75 million federal lawsuit against the city in September, contending that Ford was shot while complying with police orders to lay on the ground. The family’s attorney, Steven Lerman, said Ford was “mentally challenged,” a fact known to the officers, and was not doing anything wrong when he was stopped. He also alleged the two officers involved in the shooting were “poorly trained” and have a documented “pattern and practice” of reckless conduct on the streets.
Following the release of the autopsy, Lerman said he was “completely outraged, but not surprised, that the fatal round to the back of my client’s son killed him.”
“As I’ve said all along, this is evidence that Mr. Ford was unlawfully and unjustifiably shot by police,” Lerman said. “It supports our theory of the case that this shooting is way out of policy and a horrible example of excessive force gone crazy.”
Wampler, a 12-year veteran of the LAPD, and Villegas, an eight-year veteran, were both reassigned to administrative duties following the shooting. Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, said the autopsy “provides one set of facts among many hundreds being collected and assessed in the ongoing investigation concerning Ezell Ford.”
Citing Sunday night’s shooting at a pair of LAPD officers in South Los Angeles, Izen stressed that officers are “put directly in harm’s way every day.”
“However, no officer goes to work with the intent of using force, much less deadly force, but force may become necessary when there is an objectively reasonable certainty that there could be injury to themselves or someone else,” Izen said. “As tragic as these situations are, law enforcement officers absolutely have the right to defend their life or the life of another.”
Police have repeatedly asked for witnesses to the shooting to come forward. LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante said earlier this year that only one person had come to police to discuss the case – despite community claims that witnesses disputed the police version of the shooting. A friend of Ford’s family told the Los Angeles Times she witnessed part of the confrontation and never saw a struggle.
Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti today renewed their call for witnesses to come forward. Beck said the investigation is “far from over,” and it could be “another several months” before it reaches the Police Commission. Beck noted that while investigators have spoken to a variety of people, they have yet to find any “civilian eyewitnesses to the actual act.”
Garcetti said he wanted Ford’s autopsy released “because transparency is key to the trust between the LAPD and the people they serve.”
“That’s why a full and impartial investigation is ongoing,” Garcetti said. “That’s why witnesses must come forward without delay. And that's why violence in our streets or against the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department will not be tolerated.”
Ford’s shooting occurred two days after Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, touching off a series of protests across the country.
December 25, 2014
By Amen Oyiboke
The holidays are here and most of us will be enjoying the surroundings of family members and close friends. Some believe the holidays is a great time to socialize and receive from others what they’ve desired all year.
But what is the real meaning of Christmas? It’s not about the gifts under the tree, the cards in the mail, snow falling or the numerous store sales that happen at this time of the year. Christmas is the season of profound joy and peace. It is a time to reflect on the love that God gave to us in its purest form. Christmas is when we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ as child. God sent us his son, Jesus, to be a physical reminder of his love, peace and joy. The birth of Christ brought happiness to the world that no other thing could fulfill. In biblical stories, shepherds, wise men and angels all shared excitement of the coming of his birth. The world knew that the coming of his birth was nothing of the ordinary. As a signal to the world, a star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for Christ the child.
In the Bible, Luke 2: 4-19 explains the story of the birth of Jesus Christ: “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
God sent His son to this world to show us what true salvation is. He sent Jesus to us so that one day he could make the ultimate sacrifice and die for our sins.
Christmas is the time to reflect on your inner peace, consciousness of self-worth and the love of Christ. Many times we forget about the reason for the season. Things of materialistic value consume our minds and we base our emotions on monetary things. This Christmas focus on what you already have and the story God has individually written for you. Ask yourself, “What is my meaning of Christmas?” Align that answer with the story of Christmas and receive those answers as personal motivation to start a positive year.
December 25, 2014
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
Weeks of national protest against police brutally sparked by the non-indictments in the murders Michael Brown and Eric Garner, reached the federal courthouse steps in downtown Los Angeles when more than 50 powerful Black men staged a silent vigil demonstration, recently.
Organized and led by Kerman Maddox, managing partner at Dakota Communications and influential political ally, the protested featured men dressed in dark suits and carrying placards that read “Black Lives Matter.”
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner died in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, New York, after a police officer put him in a grappling hold on him and Brown was shot and killed by Furgeson, Mo. police Officer Darren Wilson in August.
Those incidents as well as other cases of police brutality against Blacks has sparked a national outrage that has ignited in Furgerson and most recently New York and led to marches throughout America and particularly her in Los Angeles where Ezell Ford’s murder at the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department is not resolved.
The noontime gathering was intended to illustrate that police do not target only youth in low-income neighborhoods, said Kerman Maddox, managing partner at Dakota Communications and the organizer of the vigil.
“The larger community doesn't know how common it is for African American men to be stopped and harassed,” said Maddox.
Hailed as “Suits in Solidarity,” the protest was arranged by Maddox to show their support for the monumental movement that has been escalating throughout the country.
While, similar to the congressional staffer’s protest in Washington D. C last week, the “Suits in Solidarity” event included public officials such as Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Assembly members Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and Mike Gipson.
In contrast to many protest which resulted in violence and arrest, this protest was designed to be low key and the men greeted each other in solidarity with handshakes and hugs.
The vigil drew men from all walks of life, including pastors, architects, engineers and lawyers, many of whom described being racially profiled by police.
“We can still express our concerns and outrage in a nonviolent and peaceful way,” added Gipson.
The vigil began with a prayer and a moment of silence, and ended with a moment of silence. Then the men put their signs down and stood silently for 30 seconds with their hands up, their gazes fixed ahead.
It was a clear message, silent, but powerful.
December 18, 2014
By JILL COLVIN
Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she’s proud to have been part of an administration that “banned illegal renditions and brutal interrogations” and said the U.S. should never be involved in torture anywhere in the world.
Clinton spoke about the importance of the nation acting in accordance with its values after receiving an award from The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights at a gala in New York.
“Today we can say again in a loud and clear voice that the United States should never condone or practice torture anywhere in the world,” Clinton told the audience. “That should be absolutely clear as a matter of both policy and law, including our international treaty obligations.”
The remarks marked Clinton’s first on the subject since the release of a Senate report last week investigating the CIA’s interrogation techniques after 9/11. The report has sparked questions about the appropriate use of force in the war against terrorism.
Clinton said that recent world events, including the mass murder of children in Pakistan and the siege in Sydney, Australia, “should steel our resolve and underscore that our values are what set us apart from our adversaries.”
Clinton said Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968, would agree that it’s “possible to keep us safe from terrorism and reduce crime and violence without relying on torture abroad or unnecessary force or excessive incarceration at home.”
Clinton, a former first lady, New York senator and U.S. Secretary of State, is considering another run for president and is viewed as the likely Democratic nominee if she runs. She was honored at the Kennedy organization’s star-studded Ripple of Hope Award ceremony.
Clinton also addressed the recent protests that have raged across the country, and drew links between violence at home and abroad.
She declared, “yes, Black lives matter,” a mantra of demonstrators around the country who have been protesting recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed Black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York.
She wondered what Kennedy would say about “the thousands of Americans marching in our streets demanding justice for all,” and “the mothers who’ve lost their sons.”
“What would he say to all those who have lost trust in our government and our other institutions, who shudder at images of excessive force, who read reports about torture done in the name of our country, who see too many representatives in Washington quick to protect a big bank from regulation but slow to take action to help working families facing ever greater pressure,” Clinton said.
Entertainers Robert De Niro and Tony Bennett and Physicians Interactive Chairman Donato Tramuto also were honored.
The nonprofit says the award is meant to laud business leaders, entertainers and activists who demonstrate commitment to social change and “reflect Robert Kennedy’s passion for equality, justice, basic human rights, and his belief that we all must strive to ‘make gentle the life of this world.’”