Angry residents confront LAPD chief over Ezell Ford shooting

By Frank Stoltze / 89.3KPCC
August 20, 2014

ezell ford chief beck churchCharlotte Watson waited in a line that stretched all the way down the center aisle of Paradise Baptist Church in South Los Angeles Tuesday night before it was her turn to address LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

“We feel like prisoners in our own community,” she told Beck amid cheers from about 200 people gathered to vent their anger over the fatal policing shooting of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old unarmed mentally ill African American man. “They approach black men assuming that every black male is in a gang,” Watson said of LAPD officers.

Signs on a nearby wall read “Justice for Ezell F.” and “Don’t shoot, let us live.” A poster prepared by the Youth Justice Coalition listed the names of 304 “officer involved killings” in LA County from 2007-2014. There have been numerous protests over Ford’s killing over the last few days.

Watson, 53, a lifelong resident of South LA, said she’s warned her son often to be careful around police. “I don’t plan on being one of these mothers out here crying because my son has been shot down.”

At a meeting designed to calm tensions, Beck turned to members of Ford’s family sitting in the pews and offered his condolences. “My heart breaks for you, but remember this is equally hard for both sides,” he said, referring to the officers who shot Ford and the department.

The statement drew groans from the audience of mostly African Americans. Angry shouting and catcalls punctuated the meeting as Beck attempted to explain that he could not provide much information about the shooting.

“We have to find out all the facts,” said Beck, noting that the investigation into the August 11 shooting was just a week old. “We want the truth just as much as you want the truth.”

Beck would not elaborate on why police stopped Ford. An LAPD spokesman has said it was an “investigative stop” by gang officers in the 200 block of West 65th Street. A statement release shortly after the shooting said Ford tackled one of the officers and tried to grab his gun.

Ford’s family doesn’t believe that account. Tribotia Ford has said her son was mentally ill and that the shooting was unjustified. The chief pleaded for witnesses to come forward in a neighborhood where distrust of police runs deep.

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