The family of a 25-year-old unarmed man who died after being shot by Los Angeles police on Monday has secured one of the lawyers who represented Rodney King, the late black man whose 1991 videotaped beating by police sparked a nationwide debate on alleged police brutality.
Los Angeles lawyer Steven Lerman told USA TODAY in an interview on Friday that he plans on filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles by Wednesday. The suit will seek compensatory damages, Lerman said.
Los Angeles police have said officers shot the man, Ezell Ford, who is black, after he reached for an officer's gun during a scuffle.
Lerman made the comments in relation to the death in South Los Angeles Monday of Ezell Ford, who witnesses said police shot in the back three times as he lay on the ground. One witness described Ford as mentally impaired and cooperative. Witnesses also said that when Ford's mother approached police to ask what happened, they pulled out billy clubs.
The Los Angeles Police Department says two officers on gang patrol saw Ford walking along a sidewalk and when they approached him, he attempted to hide his hands. During a scuffle, according to an LAPD statement, Ford reached for the gun in one officer's holster. Both officers then shot at Ford, the LAPD said. The officers called for an ambulance and handcuffed Ford, who was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The developments have been generating national attention in the wake of events in Ferguson, Mo., where protests and have taken place for several nights in reaction to last Saturday's death of teen Michael Brown after being shot by a police officer.
As tensions have escalated over these two deaths and one other of a black man in Staten Island, N.Y., the union representing LAPD officers -- the Los Angeles Police Protective League -- released a statement pleading with the public to take time to learn the facts in the Ezell Ford case before rushing to judgment.
"The LAPPL reminds everyone that it is necessary for a thorough and transparent investigation to take place so the final conclusion is trustworthy and can withstand critical scrutiny -- and that will take time," according to the statement attributed to LAPPL President Tyler Izen.
Ford "grabbed one of the officers" and then tried to remove his handgun, "prompting a deadly use of force," Izen said in the statement. "It goes without saying that no officer ever comes to work with the intention of taking a human life. However, when forced to make split-second, life-or-death decisions under stressful situations, officers rely on their training and what the law allows when using deadly force."
Lerman said that the lawsuit he is preparing will allege a deprivation of civil rights leading to wrongful death and that he has a team of former law enforcement officers and former FBI agents investigating.
As is customary in shootings involving police officers, the Los Angeles District Attorney is investigating, as is the LAPD's Force Investigation Division.