After Shooting, LAPD Uses Friendlier Face To Avoid Ferguson's Woes In LA, police shot and killed an African-American man during a scuffle with officers Monday. While it angered many black members of the community, it hasn't sparked the same unrest as in Ferguson, Mo.
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After Shooting, LAPD Uses Friendlier Face To Avoid Ferguson's Woes

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After Shooting, LAPD Uses Friendlier Face To Avoid Ferguson's Woes

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After Shooting, LAPD Uses Friendlier Face To Avoid Ferguson's Woes

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Two days after Michael Brown was killed, there was a police shooting in Los Angeles. An African-American man was killed during a scuffle with officers Monday night. The killing has angered many black residents of the South LA neighborhood where the incident took place, but it has not led to the unrest that we've seen in Ferguson, Missouri. The LAPD says that's because it's been working to build relationships with the community. From member station KPCC in Los Angeles, Frank Stoltze reports.

FRANK STOLTZE, BYLINE: Ina Smalls lives across the street from where the shooting happened and heard the gunshots.

INA SMALLS: Actually what I remember is me standing about five feet away from him calling 911, seeing him lying on the ground, shot dead, handcuffed on his stomach.

STOLTZE: She doesn't believe the LAPD's claim that 25-year-old Ezell Ford tried to grab an officer's gun.

SMALLS: Ezell was killed for no reason. And he's shot in his back.

STOLTZE: It's all the same to many folks here. LAPD, Ferguson, Missouri police - cops pull the trigger too fast when it comes to black men. But residents here have not faced off with police in the same way. LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger thinks he knows why.

EARL PAYSINGER: The difference between this instance and what we see back east, I think, has to do with the confidence that the public has in the police department to conduct an immediate, a thorough, a thoughtful investigation.

STOLTZE: The department has not released the officers' names or reasons for stopping Ford, but they have given more information than Ferguson police, saying officers shot him after he grabbed one of their weapons during a struggle. Importantly, they've also kept a low profile during protests. This is a police department that faced riots of its own two decades ago when pent-up anger over police harassment boiled over after the Rodney King beating. But federally mandated reforms, a more diverse department and community policing have changed the LAPD says civil rights attorney Connie Rice.

CONNIE RICE: Now we have a lot of officers who have relationships not just with community leaders but with everyday folks in South LA.

STOLTZE: But Rice, who at one time was hired by the city to assist with police reform says some within the LAPD hold onto the old ways.

RICE: Then there are gang units that as far as I'm concerned, they haven't gotten the memo. And they haven't changed a thing.

STOLTZE: Rice can't say whether the gang officers who shot Ford are among those who got the memo. An LAPD helicopter hovers over West 65th Street as young African-American men and women light dozens of candles that are lined up to spell Ezell's name on the sidewalk where he fell. His mother, Tritobia Ford, stands nearby. Ezell was her oldest child.

TRITOBIA FORD: My heart is hurt. I feel great pain for the death that my son suffered for no reason.

STOLTZE: She says, her son had mental challenges. Ezell Ford's 32-year-old cousin Lacrisha White echoes a familiar sentiment in this neighborhood.

LACRISHA WHITE: Just from walking down the street, we're considered thugs, drug dealers, gang members. And not all of us are.

STOLTZE: White's a single mother. She worries about her three boys joining gangs or getting shot by police. The oldest is 10-year-old Reginald Parker.

REGINALD PARKER: It was the police fault. I thought they're supposed to be protecting, but they kill him. And they killed my cousin.

STOLTZE: In addition to the LAPD, the L.A. district attorney is investing the shooting of Ezell Ford. For NPR News, I'm Frank Stoltze in Los Angeles.

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