Two years ago, LAPD officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas shot and killed Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Now, they are suing, alleging that the department is racially discriminating against them by keeping them on desk duty, because Ford was black and they are not.
The suit, reported in the Los Angeles Times, alleges that Wampler and Villegas have been denied opportunities for advancement through the force, despite having been cleared of misconduct in Ford’s death. The officers point to a black officer who also shot and killed a suspect and was subsequently moved to “a highly sought after position” as evidence of the alleged discrimination. Wampler is white, and Villegas is Latino.
Wampler and Villegas stopped Ford near his home in South Los Angeles in August 14, and Villegas quickly drew his gun. There are multiple accounts of what happened next. According to police, Ford tackled Wampler to the ground and reached for the officer’s firearm, prompting Villegas and Wampler both to shoot him. At least one witness said, at the time, that Wampler, in fact, tackled Ford, and Ford did not reach for his gun.
LAPD Commissioner Charlie Beck found that the men had not violated policy, and an internal investigation found evidence to support their claims: Ford’s DNA on the gun and scratches on his and Wampler’s hands. However, the independent review board that oversees the LAPD later found that Wampler had violated LAPD use-of-force policy and that Villegas had acted inappropriately by drawing his gun early.
The suit claims that Wampler and Villegas were kept on modified duty and denied overtime, promotions, and new assignments because of the racial dynamics of the shootings. It also claims that after the officers complained against the discrimination they believe they were faced with, officials retaliated against them further. “Clearly, there is a different standard of discipline meted out to officers solely on account of their race and color of their skin,” it reads.
Is there a different standard of discipline meted out to suspects solely on account of their race and color of their skin? Who can say.