More than a month after Ezell Ford was fatally shot by officers, his family announced Wednesday that they have filed a $75 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department.
Ford, described in the lawsuit as being “mentally challenged,” was shot to death in South L.A. near 65th Street and Broadway on the evening of Aug. 11.
The unarmed man was walking in the area when he was approached by two police officers who asked him to “lie on the ground,” according to the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court.
“Within moments, defendant Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas intentionally and/or negligently fatally shot unarmed decedent Ezell Ford, multiple times, with their firearms,” the lawsuit stated.
Complete Coverage: Ezell Ford Shooting
The “use of excessive force” against Ford was “sadistic and malicious and did not further any legitimate legal purpose,” the complaint said, describing the shooting as “despicable conduct.”
Ford’s family members said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit Wednesday that the the mentally disabled young man may not have understood police orders during the fatal incident. They previously stated he was complying with officers and was lying on the ground when he was shot in the back.
Additionally, they contend that the defendants knew that Ford was mentally challenged.
“Ford … was unarmed, posed no threat to anyone, including defendants, was cooperative with the officers, and had committed no crime,” the complaint stated.
At the afternoon news conference, Steve Lerman, the family’s attorney, said that the shooting occurred “for no other reason than that these officers were bored on a Monday night.”
LAPD has given a different account of the events, stating that the 25-year-old was shot following a struggle with the two officers, who were assigned to LAPD’s Newton Division gang enforcement detail and were veterans on the force. Police said Ford reached for an officer’s gun, prompting the shooting.
The suit alleged that Ford’s death was a “result of repeated unconstitutional action of defendants.”
The officers’ actions constituted a violation of Ford’s constitutional rights because he was not committing a crime, was unarmed and compliant, and was mentally challenged, according to the legal complaint.
The lawsuit further alleged that the department had a “longstanding custom, policy and practice” of violating civil rights and using excessive force, and also of racial profiling of African-Americans.
“We cannot tolerate or stand for the continued conduct of abuse, discrimination and racial profiling that allowed this poor man to be shot dead,” Lerman said.
The deadly incident occurred just days after another unarmed black man, 18-year-old Michael Brown, was shot to death by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. That case that received nationwide attention and sparked a series of protests, some of them violent.
Ford’s death prompted a number of rallies in Los Angeles, as protesters demanded justice for him.
His parents were seeking $75 million in various damages, according to the lawsuit.