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Los Angeles agrees to $1.5 million settlement in fatal shooting by police

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The parents of an unarmed black man shot to death in a 2014 scuffle with Los Angeles police will receive $1.5 million under a legal settlement with the city approved on Wednesday, officials and the family's attorney said.

The agreement between Los Angeles and the parents of 25-year-old Ezell Ford ends civil litigation in a case centered on the death of a man who, according to his family's attorney, was mentally challenged.

Hundreds of people protested Ford's killing in 2014, one of several high-profile deaths that fueled the Black Lives Matter movement as police use of force in cases involving minorities and the mentally challenged came under increased scrutiny.

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"No amount of money can bring back this young man to his loving family," said Steven Lerman, an attorney representing Ford's parents, Edsell and Tritobia Ford.

"They're prepared to go forward with their life now as best they can," Lerman said by phone.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney in an email confirmed that the City Council approved the settlement on Wednesday but declined further comment.

The settlement of the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court follows a decision two weeks ago by the county district attorney declining to file criminal charges against the two police officers.

In a redacted report, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas spotted Ford leaving a "known gang area" on Aug. 11, 2014, and suspected he was trying to dispose of something illegal.

As Wampler tried to apprehend Ford, the two men scuffled and ended up on the ground with Ford reaching for the officer's gun, according to the report.

Villegas then shot Ford twice, the report said, while Wampler pulled out a backup weapon, reached around Ford's back, and also shot him.

In 2015, the Los Angeles Police Commission issued a mixed ruling in the shooting, largely approving Villegas' actions while finding Wampler violated department policy in several areas, including his tactics in approaching Ford.

Lerman filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 on behalf of the Ford family, seeking $75 million in damages. The lawsuit was withdrawn last year.

The attorney said he switched the case to state court because he and his clients were more likely to prevail there than with the federal suit.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Leslie Adler)

 
 
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