By Kate Mather, Joel Rubin and Ruben Vives
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — The president of the Los Angeles Police Commission added to calls Thursday for the LAPD to move quickly as it works to piece together what led to this week's shooting of a mentally ill man in South Los Angeles, but he dismissed comparisons between the killing and a police shooting that has sparked protests in Missouri.
Steve Soboroff said he expected the LAPD to prioritize its inquiry and conduct a thorough investigation of Monday evening's shooting of Ezell Ford, 25. He said his talks with LAPD officials about the incident have led him to believe that the department was taking the matter seriously.
Ford's death prompted a backlash on social media against the LAPD, with some comparing it to the shooting of Michael Brown, a young, unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo., which has led to ongoing protests and national headlines.
"It's important to find out the facts and distinguish the two cases," Soboroff told The Times. "Our Police Department is not their Police Department.... Because there is a tendency to compare apples to oranges, it's important for us to gather the facts of what happened as quickly as possible."
Soboroff was joined by civil rights advocate Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who said he was meeting Thursday evening with LAPD officials at the department's Newton Division and would call for a "fast-track," transparent investigation.
Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said he would urge the LAPD to talk to all potential witnesses. Some local residents who said they saw at least portions of the incident have provided accounts that conflict with the department's version, he said.
"We've got a 'he said, she said,' " Hutchinson said. "That's why it's important -- because you have these two conflicting versions of what happened."
After the meeting, Hutchinson released a statement saying that LAPD officials had pledged that the department's investigation would be transparent.
The president of the union representing rank-and-file LAPD officers called for patience during the department's investigation, criticizing what he called "inaccurate reports" about the incident.
"While waiting for the facts to be determined, I feel the need to restate the obvious," Tyler Izen said. "When a person attempts to take an officer's gun from them, no matter their physical or mental condition, we should expect an officer to respond accordingly to save their life -- and that likely includes the use of deadly force."
Even if the department fast-tracks the investigation, it still could take months before investigators come up with their determination of what occurred.
The LAPD late Thursday issued a statement asking any witnesses to contact the department or the office of inspector general, saying that "information from the public regarding this incident has been limited."
The shooting took place as Ford was walking home along 65th Street in the Florence area of the city, according to witnesses and police.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said two veteran gang officers were driving on the same street when they spotted Ford.
An LAPD statement, citing a preliminary investigation, said officers got out of their car and tried to talk to Ford, but he "continued walking and made suspicious movements, including attempting to conceal his hands." When the officers got closer, Smith said, Ford "whirled around and basically tackled the lead officer."
Ford reached for the officer's gun, Smith said, prompting his partner to open fire. The officer on the ground reached for his backup weapon and also fired.
Despite requests by The Times, the LAPD has yet to identify the officers or explain why they initially wanted to talk to Ford.
A friend of Ford's family told The Times that she witnessed part of the incident and saw no struggle between the officers and Ford. Dorene Henderson said Ford was shot despite local residents' shouting warnings to police that he was mentally ill.
Rallies for Ford were planned Thursday evening in South L.A., and Sunday outside LAPD's downtown headquarters.
Ford's family has said he had been diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. An attorney representing the family, Steven A. Lerman, said he planned to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against the LAPD.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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