L.A. Approves $1.5M Settlement for Police Killing

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old African-American man diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was shot and killed by a Los Angeles Police Department officer in August, 2014. A subsequent review found that, although the shooting itself was justifiable as Ford attempted to wrestle the officer's gun away, both officers involved violated department policy prior to the shooting.

Ford's killing was one of many police shootings to spark outrage and protests, and now it will cost the city $1.5 million. The Los Angeles City Council approved the settlement in response to a lawsuit filed by Ford's family.

Justified or Unjustified?

Officer Sharlton Wampler shot Ford in the back with a backup gun after wrestling over the officer's gun during a scuffle. Officer Antonio Villegas, Wampler's partner that night, also fired at Ford in an effort to protect Wampler. While the L.A. Police Commission agreed that both Wampler and Villegas were defending Wampler's life when they fired, the shooting violated LAPD policy.

First, Wampler lacked a reason to stop and detain Ford in the first place, and his handling of the encounter "was so flawed that it led to the fatal confrontation," according to the Los Angeles Times. Additionally, Villegas's decision to draw his weapon early on in the confrontation was also problematic. Taking the totality of the interaction into account, the Commission ruled that Wampler's "decision to approach and physically contact the subject was an unjustified" departure from LAPD policy.

Good Will Spending

Considering Ford's family initially filed a $75 million lawsuit against the city, settling the matter for less than $2 million might seem like quite a deal. But it is just one of many wrongful death suits involving LAPD officers. According to the Times:

In December, the city agreed to pay more than $8 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the fatal shootings of three unarmed men. City officials cited costly police-related payouts when they recently decided to borrow money to help pay for legal settlements and explore ways to build trust between the LAPD and some residents.

The attorney representing Ford's family thinks the settlement could help Ford's mother build some of that trust. "This settlement, while bringing closure to the legal end, will allow her to do good in her son's name," Boris Treyzon told the Times. "Given her standing in the community, I'm sure a lot of good will come of it."

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