Garcetti made the announcement during a surprise appearance at an LAPD news conference Thursday. He has given the department until the end of the year to lift a security hold placed on the autopsy that prevented the coroner’s office from publicly releasing its findings.
The order comes after months of protests and frustration among residents about the police department’s lack of transparency in the Aug. 11 shooting.
“I am ordering the results of this autopsy be released,” Garcetti said. “I think that is important for the family, that is important for the community, that is important for our city as well as our department.”
Fernando J. Guerra, a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University, said Garcetti’s actions suggested he had concerns beyond Ford’s shooting. The 25-year-old’s death occurred at a time of growing national criticism of police shootings, including demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., after police shot and killed an unarmed young black man there.
“He doesn’t want to be associated with the kind of mishandling of this issue we have seen in other cities,” Guerra said.
The department previously defended the hold on Ford’s autopsy, according to the LA Times.
A department spokesman said officials wanted to ensure that anyone who speaks with investigators is relaying information seen firsthand, not what was read in news reports or heard on the street.
Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday that the autopsy contained “significant evidence that could add tremendous credibility” to what witnesses may say.
“We want the truth,” Beck said. “We want witnesses’ statements to be as untainted as possible. That is why we have held the autopsy. But we have no intention of denying the family or this community access to that autopsy forever.”
Police also have not addressed why the unarmed man was approached by officers as he walked home. If you recall, police allege Ford wrestled with one of the officers, reaching for his gun. That’s when both officers opened fire. Witnesses, however, say there was no struggle.
The mayor’s order may seem like a proactive step in preventing a boiling over of tensions, seen most recently in Ferguson following the death of black teenager Michael Brown Jr., but many think it’s been too long.
Cliff Smith, a member of the nine-person South Central Neighborhood Council, said the mayor was giving the LAPD too long a deadline for the autopsy’s release. By the end of the year, more than four months will have passed since the shooting, he noted.
“Four and a half months after the fact?” Smith said. “It’s just pathetic.”