LAPD shot mentally-ill black man at close range, says autopsy report

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Los Angeles Police Department released an autopsy Monday on a young black man who was shot during a confrontation with police in August.

Ezell Ford KCBS

For months demonstrators in Los Angeles had been demanding the release of Ezell Ford's autopsy, which police say they were keeping sealed while searching for more witnesses.

The 25-year-old was shot when he tried to take an officer's gun, according to police. The autopsy shows Ford was hit three times at close range: two fatal shots in his right side and back, and a third shot struck his arm.

An autopsy report shows where Ezell Ford was shot Los Angeles Police Department

"The officers' account is of a violent struggle where one officer ended up on his back with Mr. Ford on top of him with Mr. Ford in control of his pistol," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. "The officer drew his back up gun and reached over Mr. Ford's back and shot Mr. Ford in very close proximity."

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck CBS News

Ford was described by his family as bipolar and schizophrenic. A witness, Ashanti Harrison, contradicts the police description of a struggle.

"He put his hands up like that and they wrestled him to the ground," Harrison said. "A shot went off, and then they shot him again and another two seconds later, they shot him again."

Ford's family has filed a $75 million wrongful death suit against the LAPD and the city of Los Angeles. The suit claims the police officers were familiar with Ford and aware that he was mentally ill.

"They knew that this man was unarmed," said Steven Lerman, the family's attorney. "They knew that he was basically helpless and harmless and yet, they proceeded to attack him, bring him to the ground, shoot and kill him."

The autopsy is one element to be used in three separate investigations now underway into Ford's death. The two officers involved, both veterans of the gang squad, have been taken off street duty.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.