Officers in Ezell Ford shooting file discrimination lawsuit against city of Los Angeles

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Thursday, August 4, 2016
Ezell Ford, 25, was fatally shot by LAPD officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas near his South Los Angeles home on Aug. 11, 2014.
Ezell Ford, 25, was fatally shot by LAPD officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas near his South Los Angeles home on Aug. 11, 2014.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Two Los Angeles police officers involved in the fatal 2014 shooting of Ezell Ford Jr. filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles Wednesday.

In the lawsuit, the officers claim they are being kept from returning to field duty because of racial discrimination and retaliation.

Officers Antonio Villegas and Sharlton Wampler were both assigned to the Newton Division's gang unit when they encountered Ford, 25, near his South Los Angeles home in August 2014.

According to the lawsuit, Wampler said Ford attempted to grab his gun. Because Wampler feared for his and Villegas' life, he grabbed his backup gun holstered to his leg and shot Ford.

Ford, who had been diagnosed bipolar and schizophrenic, was pronounced dead at the scene.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Chief Charlie Beck determined that neither officer acted out of policy in the shooting. But the Police Commission found Wampler violated LAPD policies from the initial contact with Ford to the use of lethal and non-lethal force.

Villegas was found in violation of drawing his gun earlier before the final use of deadly force, but ultimately that he was justified in firing his weapon in the end.

In the lawsuit, Villegas claims he cannot do outside field work and remains on administrative duties. Wampler also claims he was denied a patrol bonus. Neither officer can be promoted to rank of sergeant because of their non-field status, the suit also said.

The officers also claim they cannot obtain transfers, overtime or coveted assignments because of their status.

The suit also provides an example of the discrimination the officers - who are Latin and white - claim they face: a black police officer involved in a fatal shooting was on administrative duties for a short time before getting an important position at another LAPD division. The Police Commission had found the officer unjustly shot the suspect, according to the suit.

It was unclear how much the officers were seeking in damages in the lawsuit.

On Thursday, civil rights leaders denounced the lawsuit, saying it was a "slap in the face at Police Chief Beck, the Police Commission and the family of Ford."

Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson issued a statement.

"The lawsuit by the officers involved in the slaying of Ford is outrageous and reprehensible," it said. "The city should swiftly deny it, and the demand for charges against the officers should continue to be vigorously pressed. The only day in the court the officers should have is if charges are filed against them."

City News Service contributed to this report.