LOS ANGELES - Civil rights activists called on Wednesday for criminal charges against one of two Los Angeles police officers in the shooting death of an unarmed black man, after the city's police commission found the officer had violated department policy.
The August 2014 shooting death of 25-year-old Ezell Ford, who a family lawyer says suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, led to sporadic protests in the city and increased tension between police and some members of the African-American community.
Police officials say officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, who are Asian and Latino respectively, shot Ford after he struggled with Wampler and tried to grab his holstered gun.
Community activists with the National Action Network, an organisation founded by civil rights leader Al Sharpton, said they wanted Wampler, who the police commission on Tuesday found most at fault in the shooting, to be criminally charged. "We do have confidence somewhat in the system," said K.W. Tulloss, western regional director of the National Action Network. "Now we're asking the district attorney to do the right thing." While some protesters have called for a murder charge, another National Action Network activist, Najee Ali, told a news conference he would leave it up to District Attorney Jackie Lacey to decide what charge to bring.
Lacey in a statement said the case is under review. "The focus of the review is to determine whether the filing of criminal charges is warranted, not whether LAPD internal policies were violated," Lacey said.
The District Attorney's Office has not charged any Los Angeles police officer over a shooting in more than a decade.
The police commission on Tuesday found Wampler violated department policy in drawing his gun and using lethal force and that Villegas mostly adhered to policy but should not have drawn his gun early in the altercation.
That finding contrasted with Police Chief Charlie Beck's review finding both Wampler and Villegas followed department policy.
The commission's ruling sends the matter back to Beck, who must decide what discipline if any the officers deserve.
The Black Lives Matter movement, which organised protests over the shooting, including one outside Mayor Eric Garcetti's house, declined comment on the issue of charges, as did the NAACP civil rights group.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union for officers, called the commission finding "irresponsible and reckless and was solely made to avoid civil unrest."