Media description of “another unarmed black man” under scrutiny

Back in August, shortly after the shooting of Michael Brown, there was another, similar incident which took place in Los Angeles. 25 year old Ezell Ford, a man reported to have a history of mental problems as well as a police record including drugs and illegal possession of a loaded firearm, was walking through one of the more gang-heavy districts of the region. For some reason, he found himself in an encounter with the police and wound up being shot three times by the two officers and later died.


At the time, a witness who was described as a friend of the family claimed that she saw no struggle between Ford and the police, but their official account of the incident was very different.

According to the LAPD’s news release, two veteran gang officers saw Ford walking on a South Los Angeles sidewalk Monday night and stopped their patrol car and attempted to speak to him. But Ford, the statement said, “continued walking and made suspicious movements, including attempting to conceal his hands.

“When the officers got closer and attempted to stop the individual, the individual turned, grabbed one of the officers, and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, they fell to the ground and the individual attempted to remove the officer’s handgun from its holster.” The other officer, police said, “fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon at the individual.”

Another relative of Ford actually claimed that he was on the ground complying with the officers’ commands when they shot him in the back. But now that the official autopsy has been released, CNN offers a telling description of their own in terms of how the suspect should be categorized.

His name isn’t as recognizable as Michael Brown’s. But like Brown, Ezell Ford was an unarmed black man shot and killed by police in August.

Now, newly released details of Ford’s death could raise a host of new questions.

Among the findings: The 25-year-old was shot three times, including once in the back. And that wound was surrounded by a muzzle imprint, Ford’s autopsy report shows.


You have to dig down a number of paragraphs in CNN’s coverage before you see any indication that there was a lot more to this story than is portrayed in the lede. The autopsy results are consistent with the account of the police, but somehow this gets lost in the media narrative. While the the CNN writer clearly wants to focus on the race of not only the suspect, but the cops, the color of anyone’s skin ceases to be of much interest once a battle for control of a gun is underway. Sadly, that’s frequently the only pertinent aspect of the story on cable news. And if you can describe the suspect as being “unarmed” during the event you’ve got yourself a click-bait headline, facts be damned. This trend has clearly become a bit too much for Bob Owens, who takes the network to task.

Yan’s attempt to insinuate racial bias is getting in the way of telling the story made clear by the facts, as four use of force experts interviewed by the Los Angeles Times makes perfectly clear.

Here’s the reality that Holly Yan is attempting to avoid describing.

Ezell Ford knocked down a LAPD officer and was in the process of taking control of the officer’s weapon in order to murder him with that weapon.

The officer continued fighting Ford to control the muzzle with one hand, while yelling for assistance from his partner and drawing his backup gun with his other hand.

The officer who was not struggling with Ford drew his weapon and fired two shots into the armed suspect (Ford) who was attempting to kill the officer on the ground. One of those shots was not life-threatening. The other would prove to be a fatal wound.

At the same time, the officer fighting for his life with the armed Ford on the ground was able to get his backup gun and place it against Ford’s back, also firing a shot that would also prove to be fatal.

Ezell Ford was in control of a police officer’s weapon and was actively attempting to murder that officer with his own weapon when he was shot.


What Owens is doing is the precise thing we need to see from more “professional” reporters. It is not only proper, but vital to have the media ask questions in the wake of such incidents, but then they need to follow up with an accurate accounting of the facts. Describing Ford as “unarmed” may have been accurate when he was walking down the street, but from the moment he took control of the officer’s weapon in a literal life and death struggle on the ground, he was most certainly not unarmed in any sense of the word.

This post has been updated to fix broken links.

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Stephen Moore 12:00 AM | February 22, 2024