LOS ANGELES -- Civil rights leaders met with Los Angeles Police Department officials Thursday to press the department to swiftly and openly investigate the fatal shooting of mentally challenged 25-year-old South LA resident Ezell Ford by two LAPD officers on Monday night.
At a press conference immediately afterward, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Roundtable, explained that he and the other attendees had asked for the meeting on Monday, after seeing that the police account of the shooting was at odds with eyewitnesses. The LAPD has said Ford tried to assault the officers before they shot him. Some in the neighborhood have said Ford was compliant with police requests, and was lying on his stomach when he was shot.
Hutchinson said he felt reassured by the meeting, and said he believed the LAPD was taking the concerns seriously. He said police officials committed to fast-tracking the investigation and to being as transparent about the status of the investigation as possible.
"The fact is that we got out there. The fact is that the LAPD has been responsive -- and we certainly appreciate that," Hutchinson said. "We all agree that we don't want to see a dangerous situation in LA under any circumstances."
"We think that the LAPD is sincere about this," he continued. "That they want to see a fair resolution to this."
Hutchinson cautioned Angelenos against forming conclusions about Monday's events before all the facts are in.
"We don't know really what happened, fully, until we have all the witnesses' statements," Hutchinson said. "I would call anything right now jumping the gun."
The activists who attended the meeting stressed several times that they do not want LA residents to respond to the shooting with the kinds of violent protests that have wracked Ferguson, Missouri, since the weekend death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer. Hutchinson also invoked the 1992 anti-LAPD riots, near where Ford was killed, as a cautionary example of what he hopes the city will avoid.
It's not clear that all area residents trust that the LAPD as much as the activists seemed to. Hundreds of protesters gathered at Leimert Park earlier Thursday to commemorate the life of Ford and other young black men killed by police around the country. Another protest is planned outside LAPD headquarters on Sunday.
As the press conference was wrapping up at the Newton LAPD precinct, upwards of 50 of Ford's neighbors gathered at the site of Monday's shooting, about three miles south, to call for justice. Carrying hand-painted signs and megaphones, they marched 12 blocks to the LAPD Community Policing Center at 77th Street to demand justice for Ford.Ford's parents, Tritobia and Edsall Ford announced Thursday that they had hired attorney Steven Lerman, who represented Rodney King in his police brutality suit, and plan to file a federal lawsuit against the LAPD for what they see as the wrongful death of their son.