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Claim: Police killed unarmed man, 25, with mental issues

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POSTED September 17, 2014 6:53 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The parents of a black man killed last month by Los Angeles police filed a $75 million claim against the city on Wednesday and a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department and the two officers who shot him.

Ezell Ford, 25, was unarmed when police confronted him Aug. 11 on a street near his home. Officers said they tried to speak with Ford, but ended up in a struggle in which they shot him when he tried to grab an officer’s gun.

The suit said the two gang officers — Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas — knew Ford from the neighborhood and were aware he had mental problems.

“They know everybody on that block. They knew Ezell Ford Jr. They knew that he was basically kind of slow, mentally incompetent,” attorney Steven Lerman said at a news conference.

The Los Angeles Police Department referred calls for comment to the city attorney’s office, where spokesman Rob Wilcox said the policy is not to comment on pending litigation. Efforts to reach the officers for comment were unsuccessful.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court for unspecified damages alleges the officers used excessive force that violated Ford’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure.

It also claims that the city, LAPD and 10 unnamed supervisors or other officers were part of a culture that tolerated civil rights violations, including racial profiling and excessive force against blacks.

Lerman said his investigator has found witnesses to support his case, though he refused to divulge any details he had learned or what he thinks led officers to confront Ford.

He refused to comment on Ford’s criminal record, which includes a conviction for illegally possessing a loaded firearm. He also wouldn’t discuss Ford’s mental issues.

Ford’s killing inspired several peaceful protests and marches through the city, where demonstrators connected the death with that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, just days earlier.

The Aug. 9 killing of Brown, 18, was also black and unarmed, sparked rioting and violent clashes with heavily armed police in the St. Louis suburb.

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