LOS ANGELES (AP) - Autopsy information about the Los Angeles police shooting of an unarmed black man will be withheld until investigators can finish interviewing witnesses, Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday.
Beck told the Police Commission that detectives asked the Los Angeles County coroner’s office to withhold details about Ezell Ford’s death to avoid tainting witness statements.
Although the autopsy report on Ford hasn’t been completed, investigators have been able to interview only a handful of witnesses to the Aug. 11 nighttime shooting. They don’t want potential witnesses to have read or heard about details such as the number and location of bullet wounds, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
Autopsy information occasionally is withheld for days or weeks during an investigation, but “everything is going to come out eventually,” the commander said.
The shooting has sparked a few peaceful protests - including one on Sunday involving several hundred activists and black community members.
But there has been nothing like the violence that followed the recent police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in the St. Louis, Missouri, suburb of Ferguson.
Ford, 25, was shot in a confrontation with two police gang unit officers as he walked home in South Los Angeles. Police accounts said Ford was shot after he tried to grab an officer’s gun during a struggle.
A family member has told the Los Angeles Times that Ford was seeing a doctor and taking medication after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. A family friend, Dorene Henderson, told the newspaper she witnessed some of the confrontation and saw no struggle between the officers and Ford.
The Police Department, the Office of the Inspector General, the Police Commission and the county district attorney’s office are reviewing the shooting, and LAPD officials have pledged a fair and thorough investigation.
Police and other officials planned to attend a community forum on the shooting Tuesday night at a local church.
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