LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Police Department has delayed the release of a pending autopsy report for Ezell Ford, the 25-year-old unarmed black man with mental illness who an officer fatally shot last week in a South L.A. neighborhood.
"Pending further investigative and forensic analysis, the LAPD Force Investigation Division investigators have requested that The Los Angeles County Coroner place an investigative hold on the pending autopsy report," read an LAPD press release issued Monday.
LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told Southern California public radio station KPCC that investigative holds are common in cases that are currently ongoing and and in active investigations, in order to keep witness testimony from being tainted.
“They could use information from the autopsy to give credibility to their story,” Smith said.
Ed Winter, the assistant chief of investigation at the coroner's office, told The Huffington Post that he didn't know how long the hold would last.
The delay on the Ford autopsy report comes after two autopsy reports were released regarding the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson. The autopsy revealed Brown was shot six times.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of civil rights community forum the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, questioned the LAPD's decision to delay the report, and linked Ford's killing to Brown's.
"The blocking of the autopsy report of Ford comes on the heels of the release of the autopsy report on Michael Brown which contradicted the police version of how Brown was killed," Hutchinson said late Monday. "The blocking of the release Ford autopsy report further fuels suspicions about the LAPD's version of the Ford killing."
Eyewitnesses, neighbors and family dispute the police department's story. An eyewitness told KTLA that Ford's mental state was well-known in the neighborhood and to the police.
"They laid him out and for whatever reason, they shot him in the back, knowing mentally, he has complications. Every officer in this area, from the Newton Division, knows that -- that this child has mental problems," the man said in an interview with the local network. "The excessive force ... there was no purpose for it. The multiple shootings in the back while he's laying down? No. Then when the mom comes, they don't try to console her ... they pull the billy clubs out."
Another eyewitness told The Huffington Post that he heard a police officer shout "shoot him" before three bullets were unloaded into an unarmed Ezell, who was already on the ground.
Ford's mother told The Huffington Post on Friday that he showed signs of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
No officers were injured during the incident, according to the LAPD. The Force Investigation Division is currently investigating the case.
On Monday evening, about 50 protesters marched in the Florence neighborhood where Ford died, demanding justice for the young man.
Police have yet to identify the officers involved in the fatal shooting.