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January 24, 2017: District Attorney’s Office Declines to File Charges Against LAPD Officers in Ezell Ford Shooting

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The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today that criminal charges will not be filed against two Los Angeles police officers who shot and killed a man during a struggle over a gun belonging to one of the officers.

The 28-page report concluded that Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, who were working on a gang enforcement detail, acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others when they shot Ezell Ford, 25, on Aug. 11, 2014. The document is attached.

The officers saw Ford walking away from a known gang area. They approached him and said they wanted to talk to him but Ford quickly walked away and ignored their request, according to the report.

The officers believed Ford was trying to discard an illegal substance at the time of the incident. To stop him from doing so, Wampler placed his hands on Ford’s shoulders but Ford spun around, grabbed the officer by the waist and both men fell to the ground, the report said.

“The evidence indicates that Ford was on top of Wampler, struggling to obtain Wampler’s primary service weapon and posing an immediate threat to his safety and his partner’s safety,” according to the report. “In fear for their lives, Villegas and Wampler each responded with deadly force.”

According to the report, Ford’s DNA was found on Wampler’s holster, corroborating the officer’s account thatFord was trying to grab his service weapon. In addition, a witness told District Attorney investigators that she heard one of the officers say, “Let go of the gun, let go of the gun!”

Blood stains on the front of Wampler’s uniform and utility belt, dirt and scuff marks on Wampler’s boots, right-hip holster and the back of his uniform were consistent with Ford being on top of Wampler, the report concluded.

Wampler had swelling to his right wrist that is consistent with his attempt to push down on his handgun as Ford tried to get it out of the holster, the report said. Ford had injuries to his left shoulder, elbow and left knuckles that were consistent with his arm and hand scraping the pavement as he tried to get Wampler’s gun.

Officer Villegas shot Ford twice and Wampler, who is right-handed, pulled out his back-up weapon with his left hand, reached around Ford’s body and shot Ford once in the back, the report states.

“Our office has a daunting challenge each and every time there is an officer-involved shooting,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “In this case, we did everything we could to ensure a comprehensive investigation. Although the loss of Mr. Ford’s life is tragic, we believe the officers’ actions were legally justified and the evidence supports our decision.”

Prosecutors and investigators with the Justice System Integrity Division received the Los Angeles Police Department’s initial report on May 11, 2015, and conducted a thorough and exhaustive review over the next 20 months. They sought additional witnesses, intervened in a federal lawsuit to obtain new witness statements, reviewed DNA and other evidence and consulted with forensic experts.

District Attorney Lacey and other law enforcement officials urged additional witnesses to come forward to authorities in late 2014. When no one did, prosecutors sought to secure confidential witness statements that were part of a federal lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles over the shooting.

In January 2016, the District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to intervene in the federal case. The motion was granted nearly five months later, giving the prosecutors access to more than 1,000 pages of deposition transcripts of nine individuals. They were reviewed as part of the analysis but cannot be made public due to a federal court protective order.

“Although there were obstacles along the way, obtaining these statements was crucial to frame the entire picture of what happened the night Mr. Ford was shot,” District Attorney Lacey said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has given prosecutorial agencies specific legal guidelines about officers who use deadly force while on duty. An officer must reasonably believe that he or she or others are in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury before using deadly force.

This report may be read on the District Attorney’s website at http://da.lacounty.gov. Some information, including the compelled statements of law enforcement officers, is confidential under California law and therefore is redacted.