Ezell Ford autopsy: 2 experts review report

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There are many details in Ezell Ford's lengthy autopsy report, which describes his fatal wounds.

Eyewitness News spoke to an expert in police procedures, who has analyzed past confrontations, and to a pathologist, looking for any tell tale signs in the coroner's report of who did what to who.

Three gunshot wounds, from three different directions. Pathologist Jacob Terner says one appears to support the officers' account.

"I think the wound to the arm might suggest that he was reaching for the gun and the bullet went through his arm," Terner said.

He says either of the two shots were enough to kill 25-year-old Ezell Ford. One to the abdomen, with no indication of how far the muzzle was from Ford's body. The other one was to his back. It was so close the skin shows the impression of a gun muzzle. The officer has said that's from a round he shot from his back-up weapon when Ford had him pinned to the ground and had grabbed his holster.

What do the lethal wounds say about what really happened?

"I think the other two wounds just don't offer us any insight as to whether or not they were subsequent to someone going for a gun," Terner said.

Read the autopsy report on Ezell Ford (PDF)

Richard Lichten has testified as a police practices expert in nearly 24 cases.

"Nobody should look at a coroner's report and say, "Oh my gosh, based on where these bullet wounds are, it was excessive force,'" Lichten said.

He says there's a pattern of behavior regarding suspects.

"There is only one reason and one reason only why a suspect would try to take an officer's gun and that is to kill him with it," Lichten said.

But a wound to the back? Lichten says there are situations where it is within policy.

"It is a life and death struggle, and the only target that the officer has is to the back, and in that case, it may be justified," Lichten said.

What else must be weighed, he says, the officers' mindset, witness statements. Did the witnesses see the entire incident? Was there a safer way to handle Ford besides shooting him?

If there was, "then one might say, well, you know what, that's not reasonable," Lichten said.

Terner's conclusion is that there is no conclusive evidence to the officer's version of what happened or to wholly support it. Both experts agree that more information is needed.

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