LOS ANGELES — The lawyer for the family of Ezell Ford, the 25-year-old unarmed black man with mental illness who was fatally shot by a police officer last week, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday that the fatal shooting by the LAPD was “an execution.”

“I’m convinced due to the results of my initial investigation that this is not a justifiable homicide, this is in fact an execution,” attorney Steven Lerman said in an interview.

Lerman, who also represented Rodney King — the man whose videotaped beating by Los Angeles Police Department officers following a high-speed care chase in 1991 sparked national outrage — says he is hiring a private pathologist who will conduct a non-forensic, independent autopsy. He’s also bringing on board a ballistics expert and anatomist, both of which will help present a picture of what happened the evening of Aug. 11 between officers and Ford, based on the types of wounds found on Ford’s body.

The performance of a private autopsy mimics actions that followed the fatal shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson. Three autopsies have already been performed on Brown — one private, one federal and one by St. Louis County. While the results of the federal autopsy are pending, the other two revealed that Brown had been fatally shot at least six times.

Brown was killed on Aug. 9, and nearly two weeks of unrest have rocked the St. Louis suburb since then.

More than a week after Ford’s death, tensions are high in the South LA community where he was killed by veteran anti-gang police officers after what the force described as an “investigative stop.”

“It is unknown if the suspect has any gang affiliations,” the LAPD said in a statement after the killing. However, many people in Ford’s neighborhood told HuffPost that the young man was not remotely involved in gang activity.

Lerman had announced plans to “immediately” file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD over Ford’s death, but Wednesday he declined to state exactly when he would take action.

The police have launched an investigation into the incident, but have put an “investigative hold” on the coroner’s office autopsy report to prevent witness testimony from being tainted.

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 security hold on the autopsy report is common in cases that are ongoing, LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith told Southern California public radio station KPCC. However, some saw the move as controversial.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the civil rights community forum Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, questioned the LAPD’s decision.

“The blocking of the release [of the] Ford autopsy report further fuels suspicions about the LAPD’s version of the Ford killing,” Hutchinson said late Tuesday.

Lerman also cast doubt on the reasons the LAPD stated for withholding the autopsy results, telling HuffPost that he believes the police have delayed the report’s release for “political reasons.”

Because of the ongoing investigation of the shooting, the LAPD could not comment on Lerman’s allegations.

“The whole incident is under review,” Officer Sally Madera told HuffPost. “The Force Investigative Division and Robbery Homicide Division are closely assessing the incident.”

Much like the Brown case in Missouri, police and eyewitness versions of what actually took place shortly after 8:10 p.m. on Aug. 11 in the Florence neighborhood of South LA vary wildly.

The police say that during an “investigative stop,” a struggle ensued in which Ford “turned, grabbed one of the officers.” After that, “they fell to the ground” and Ford attempted to grab one of the officer’s handguns from its holster. The “partner officer then fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon” at Ford.

But eyewitnesses, neighbors and family members dispute the police department’s story. An eyewitness told KTLA that Ford’s mental state was well-known in the neighborhood and by 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 TV station. “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.”

An eyewitness told HuffPost that he heard a police officer shout “shoot him” before three bullets were unloaded into an unarmed Ezell, who was already on the ground. And a neighbor claimed “racial bullshit” was at the heart of what happened on that street.

Ford’s mother, Tritobia Ford, told HuffPost on Friday that her son showed signs of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The growing schism between the public and police over the events that left Ford dead was highlighted Tuesday in a Los Angeles Police Protective League blog post, which commented on the lack of “community or media outrage” over the “attempted murders” of multiple police officers just this week, even while outrage continues over Ford’s death. The LAPPL was clear in its opinion on Ford’s shooting.

“The reality is that when somebody attacks a police officer, they should expect the reaction to their attack will be swift, sure and met with enough force to end the assault,” the blog post reads.

Tuesday night, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck addressed a “hostile” audience at the South LA Paradise Baptist Church. Some in the crowd accused the police of racism, and people carried signs that read “Justice for Ezell F.” and “Don’t shoot, let us live.” Beck called for patience and for withholding judgment until all the facts are out.

“Just like I stand here and not prejudge Mr. Ford, I expect these officers aren’t prejudged,” Beck said.


The dramatic uprising in Ferguson, MO following the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, at the hands of a white police officer has become an international news story. As in the case of Trayvon Martin’s murder in Florida by a paranoid neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012, racism has been at the forefront of the discussion and so too inevitably has been the drug war.

The images of a militarized police force in Ferguson are shocking and disturbing but, as John Oliver brilliantly points out on his comedy/news show, many police forces around the country have gotten beefed up into veritable local armies with expensive battle equipment supplied in the name of the drug war. The show includes an excerpt with The Washington Post‘s Radley Balko, who has long documented police excess under drug war militarization.

Aggressively punitive and extreme drug policies are steeped in racism. Inherent in the response to drug law enforcement is a biased approach and stark double standards in the perceived threat of drug use by marginalized people. Unfair targeting and racial profiling have had a profound impact on how young black men in the U.S. are viewed and their lives valued.

From clothing to intoxicants, what is normal and innocuous in another context becomes sinister when associated with black people. Marijuana use has become increasingly normalized, so much so that the majority of Americans think the plant should be made legal and Washington and Colorado have become the first states to put this into practice.

Television shows joke about weed, our country’s president was once a marijuana enthusiast, and an entire industry is emerging around recreational marijuana. By contrast, for both Trayvon and Michael Brown, evidence of marijuana use in their toxicology reports was presented to news media to discredit their character in the wake of their murders. In fact, there is a long record of black murder victims being publicly smeared over marijuana.

Bringing up marijuana use in the context of the murder of these two young men is a blatant double standard and it is racist. What is happening in Ferguson, MO today has racism and the drug war written all over it.

Frank conversations about race at the national level are long overdue, and may be the only good things to come from these tragic situations. The drug war is a failed social experiment that leads to the disproportionate targeting, arrest, conviction and incarceration of people of color, despite overall equal rates of drug consumption for all people.

The drug war fuels the underlying thread of judgment, stigma and marginalization that permeates how we value human life and it enables acts of violence.

Sharda Sekaran is the managing director of communications for the Drug Policy Alliance.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog: blog/michael-brown-trayvon- martin-racism-fueled-drug-war


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The City Council on Wednesday voted to pay $5 million to the family of an unarmed, disabled man was killed by police in a shooting captured on live television.

The council voted 12-2 in closed session to approve a settlement of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed over the Dec. 13 shooting of Brian Beaird, City News Service reported. The family of the Oceanside man had sought $20 million. A call to the family’s attorney, Dale K. Galipo, seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Beaird, a 51-year-old National Guard veteran, led authorities on a nearly hour-long chase after they tried to stop him for reckless driving.

The silver Corvette ran red lights and stop signs before it hit a car in a downtown intersection, seriously injuring the other driver, and then spun onto a sidewalk.

Beaird’s father, Billy Beaird, watched live on television as his son staggered out of the car, briefly raised his hands and was shot several times.

Beaird had told the Los Angeles Times that his son was discharged from the National Guard in 1988 after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor and needed regular medical care.

Galipo has said that Beaird had become paranoid after the surgery and was afraid of the police and that was one reason he failed to pull over.

The lawsuit, filed by the father and Beaird’s mother, Christal Benjamin, alleged that police were inadequately trained, used excessive force and committed battery and negligence.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement in December that he was “very concerned” after reading a preliminary report on the shooting.

Councilman Bernard Parks was absent for the council vote, while Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander dissented.

“It’s very unfortunate on everyone’s part, on the driver’s part, and the officers involved,” said Buscaino, a former Los Angeles police officer. “In this case, you had a pursuit that lasted a long time, involved three agencies, and I felt that there’s an opportunity to proceed and challenge the case.”


The parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, will attend a rally in support of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after being placed in a chokehold by police last month.

Around 15,000 people are expected to attend the Saturday demonstration. Participants will start near the area where Garner was killed and will then head toward the Staten Island District Attorney’s office to demand justice.

The march will symbolically link the deaths of Brown and Garner to shed light on harmful policing strategies and patterns of racism by police forces across the country.

“There’s a pattern here. And the pattern is a predisposition toward disproportionate force, toward violence, on black men,” Rev. Jesse Jackson told The Wall Street Journal during a telephone interview from Ferguson.

On Sunday, Sharpton joined Brown’s parents, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, along with thousands of attendees at a protest in Ferguson, where he called Brown’s death a “defining moment on how this country deals with policing.” He also called upon police departments to end the use of military-style weapons.

Ferguson has seen violent encounters between protestors and the police since Brown’s death on Aug. 9. Although Garner’s death on July 17 provoked national outrage, rallies have remained relatively peaceful.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will not be attending Saturday’s rally, but he urged participants to stay peaceful. He cited a 2012 march denouncing stop-and-frisk tactics as an example of what a successful, non-violent demonstration can do to bring about policy change.

“It was the decisive moment in crystalizing support for change in the stop-and-frisk policy,” de Blasio said. “It was an absolutely peaceful demonstration that got its message out and there was absolute coordination between the police and protesters.

On Tuesday, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan announced a special grand jury would convene to determine whether criminal charges should be brought in Garner’s death, which was officially ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.

But Sharpton argued, as he has since Garner’s death, that the federal government should instead head the investigation.

“I am in consultation with the lawyers and family on the announcement … but we still maintain that we have asked the federal government to intervene in this case,” Sharpton said, following the district attorney’s statement. “This announcement does not impact our move for federal takeover of this case at all.”


Greater St. Mark Family Church in St. Louis, Missouri was a safe haven for wounded protestors from nearby Ferguson demanding justice in the Michael Brown shooting.

Reports from about 12:45pm on Twitter and Instagram stated that it had been raided by St. Louis County Police.

Storman Academy, a school on church property, was being used as a first-aid shelter for protestors injured by tear gas as well as a place for organizers to plan strategy, but its charitable efforts apparently caused it to face unwanted attention from the police.

In a video taken by Elon James White, a church organizer said,”County police came out today to this humanitarian shelter, and they’ve effectively shut it down on a false charge that there were people sleeping in the building, and they’re citing occupancy permits, but their information was incorrect. It’s been used solely as a humanitarian shelter.”

The most thorough account of the raid currently seems to come from the Twitter account of William Jelani Cobb, a contributor to the New Yorker and the director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut.

Between 2:35 and 3:19pm, his Twitter account stated:

At Greater St Mark Church. Witnesses say police came to the building which was being used as aid station for protestors. Police are gone, pastor of the church said they’d surrounded the building re charge that ppl were sleeping inside.

Pastor Tommie Pierson confirmed police entered church building. Unconfirmed reports that police removed materials. Church was used as center to treat people exposed to tear gas or needing med treatment. Police alleged it was used as shelter. Church says it was a safe space for organizers.

Police say they violated housing policy by having ppl stay overnight. Church leadership adamant that no one was sleeping here overnight. Church was allowing ppl to have strategy meetings here.

Tommie Pierson, pastor of the church, is also a state rep. Saw police on the premises. Amnesty International observers are at the scene now. Organizers saying this is the 3rd time police have come here. Last night they had assault weapons.

According to organizers the church held supplies for first aid, no weapons. Organizers are carrying more water, supplies into the church building. To be clear, this is all happening at the school building adjacent to the sanctuary itself. Came here with @emarvelous and @AdamSerwer. We were the first people to arrive here and police had already left.

The school is connected to the church, which is why the pastor responded to the call that police were in the building. Church, organizers now say nothing was removed from the building.

From the scene, Twitter user @tayloredpoet, told The Huffington Post via email at 2:03pm, “I am trying to get close enough to actually see what happened, but from reports the police surrounded the church and took supplies, food and water.”

In the aftermath of the police raid, people came together in solidarity.

Philip Agnew, executive director of Dream Defenders, said in a video, “But in no uncertain terms, this was a place where this community deemed, a place where we could come and feel- what? Safe. And what they did today was tell us what? There is no safety here.” He added, “And they came in here when none of us were here, and took some of the supplies that people need to alleviate the symptoms of tear gas in their eyes and on their face. They took those, and they left the water and the medical supplies.”

The police had reportedly visited the church three times before.

This isn’t the first instance of a religious figure falling victim to the current tensions. On August 13, Pastor Renita Lamkin was shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet as she tried to mediate between police and protestors. Nonetheless, religious leaders continue to stand up for justice on the streets of Ferguson.

The Huffington Post repeatedly reached out to the St. Louis Police Department but did not receive a comment.


The former employer of murdered journalist James Foley revealed on Wednesday that the militant Islamic State group (formerly known as ISIS) issued a prior threat that it would kill him.

Philip Balboni, the CEO of GlobalPost—which was one of the outlets Foley worked for in Syria before his kidnapping in 2012, and which had been working assiduously for his freedom—told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that his organization had been in contact with Foley’s captors.

“There was at one time a receptivity to a negotiation that would lead to a release,” he said. “It’s impossible to say because the kidnappers ceased to communicate with us, with the family.”

Mitchell asked Balboni if the American bombing of IS targets in Iraq could have influenced the decision to behead Foley.

“I think that it was clear that the onset of the bombing—which was done for very good and sufficient reason by our government—perhaps was the thing that sealed Jim’s fate,” he said.

He then revealed that Foley’s had recently received a message from IS about Foley.

“We’ve not released this, but there was one communication after the bombing began that went to the family that stated that Jim would be executed,” Balboni said. “We hoped and prayed that it would not. We did everything we could ourselves to convey to them that Jim was just an innocent journalist who loved the Syrian people, who understood Islam and who only wanted to tell the story of the Syrian people.”

He said he was heartbroken over Foley’s murder. “We’re so deeply sorry that we couldn’t bring Jim home safely,” he said.


A night of fun between two best friends at a sleepover turned deadly when one allegedly accidentally shot the other in the head with a pellet gun.

Justin Ingle, 12, died Saturday at a Tulsa, Okla., hospital of head trauma, after being hit in the temple from only a few feet away by a pellet traveling at 1,250 feet per second.


ANGLETON, Texas (AP) — An ex-deputy told jurors Wednesday he failed to note in a report that more gunfire had taken place well after a drunken driver was fatally shot in Texas following an accident that killed two boys, a detail a defense attorney says helps point to the innocence of the boys’ father who is on trial for murder.

David Barajas is accused of fatally shooting Jose Banda in December 2012 near Alvin minutes after Banda plowed into a vehicle that Barajas and his two sons had been pushing on a rural road. Twelve-year-old David Jr. and 11-year-old Caleb were killed. Barajas’ truck had run out of gas about 100 yards from the family’s home. Barajas’ attorney, Sam Cammack, has told jurors his client did not kill Banda and was focused only on saving his sons.

While being questioned by Cammack, Lloyd Anderson, an ex-deputy with the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office, told jurors Wednesday he failed to put in his report the detail about the gunfire he heard after arriving at the crash site. Anderson, who told jurors he was fired from the sheriff’s office for not including more details in his reports, said he probably did inform an investigator about the gunfire.

“Do you think that would have been an important thing to put in your report?” Cammack said.

“It probably could have,” Anderson said.

Cammack has focused his efforts at Barajas’ trial, which began Tuesday, on suggesting to jurors that authorities unfairly zeroed in on a grieving father as the killer without fully investigating other possible suspects. Cammack has suggested the 20-year-old Banda could have been shot by several other people who witnesses reported fleeing the crash site.

Anderson said a search the night of the accident failed to find any individuals who had reportedly fled the scene.

Legal experts say the case will be difficult to prosecute given the lack of hard evidence: no weapon was recovered, no witnesses identified Barajas as the shooter and gunshot residue tests done on Barajas came back negative. If convicted, Barajas, 32, faces up to life in prison.

An even greater challenge for prosecutors could be overcoming sympathy for Barajas. Many residents in Alvin, 30 miles southeast of Houston, have supported Barajas. Some have said they might have done the same thing in a similar situation.

Despite no murder weapon, prosecutors have said they have other evidence, including ammunition found at Barajas’ home that they say is similar to a bullet fragment found in Banda’s car. Cammack says police found a shell casing for a different weapon, a 9mm handgun, at the scene and that Barajas couldn’t have had enough time to retrieve a gun from his home and shoot Banda before authorities arrived.

During Anderson’s testimony, dash-camera video from his patrol vehicle of the crash site was played for jurors. In the video, Cindy Barajas, the boys’ mother, can be heard screaming, “No, not my babies.”


Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at .