At same time that police in Ferguson, Mo. were tear-gassing people protesting the killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown Monday night, police in Los Angeles were shooting another young, unarmed black man. Witnesses say 25-year-old Ezell Ford was lying on the ground, complying with officers, when he was shot multiple times in the back. Police, however, tell a different story. They say they were conducting an “investigative stop” when “a struggle ensued, which resulted in an officer-involved-shooting.”
The police press release said that no officers were injured, but police gave KTLA a rather novel theory as to what happened. Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
“LAPD says that this shooting was warranted, they say they’re also looking at the possibility of the officer’s weapon being involved in the struggle.”
The history of these sorts of incidents tells us that unless there’s video, most people will believe the police acted appropriately, and if there is video, will want to see more of it. If you doubt that Ezell Ford was being treated as a de facto threat by the cops, if you doubt his mother’s account of being forced to the ground, if you doubt that black communities are treated like occupied enemy territory, ask yourself when’s the last time you saw some shit like this in a press release about a white person:
“During the stop a struggle ensued, which resulted in an officer-involved-shooting. It is unknown if the suspect has any gang affiliations.”
There are probably a million things that were unknown about Ezell Ford, including exactly what matter he was a “suspect” in, but this is the only such detail they chose to include. Do we know if he was on Team Edward and/or Team Jacob? The cops aren’t saying.
Coming, as it does, on the heels of the Mike Brown killing, and the Eric Garner killing, and the John Crawford killing, and a slew of other killings of unarmed black men and boys in the post-Trayvon era, attention on this case will rightly focus on the racial implications of policing policies, but it is also worth noting that Mr. Ford was disabled. On a smaller scale, police nationwide have also demonstrated a propensity to use excessive force against those with mental and intellectual disabilities. Add race to a situation already fraught with danger for a mentally disabled person, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
The Ezell Ford killing has yet to receive the sort of national attention that Mike Brown’s killing has, and will test the media’s capacity to continue to connect the dots of lives cut short under a presumption of threat.