By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES - Jan 9 (Reuters) - The Los Angeles police chief met on Friday with African-American activists as he sought to defuse growing tensions over the fatal August police shooting of an unarmed black man, but declined their request to fire the two officers involved as a probe continues.
Four activists with the Black Lives Matter movement, which began as a response to the 2012 shooting of a teenager by a Florida neighborhood watchman, won a meeting with Chief Charlie Beck after dozens of participants in the group stood out front of the Los Angeles police headquarters for more than a week.
Members of the movement say they are seeking justice in the Aug. 11 shooting death of 25-year-old Ezell Ford, who a family lawyer says had mental issues. Police have said two officers shot Ford after he struggled with one of them and tried to grab an officer's holstered gun.
Melina Abdullah, professor of pan-African studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and an organizer with Black Lives Matter who participated in the meeting, described it as worthwhile.
"It shows us, if nothing less, our own power," Abdullah told reporters outside the police headquarters. "It's through the refusal of the community to just let this pass as another shooting we don't respond to that we even got the meeting."
Ford's death came two days after the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury's decision in November not to criminally indict the officer in that high-profile death led to days of sometimes violent demonstrations in Ferguson.
Those protests spread across the country. Demonstrators have also expressed anger at a grand jury's decision in December not to indict a New York City police officer for his role in the July asphyxiation death of another unarmed black man, 43-year-old Eric Garner.
The killings of Garner and Brown have aggravated already strained relations between police and black Americans. In Los Angeles, members of Black Lives Matter, which gained prominence in recent months, in addition to wanting the two officers involved in Ford's death to be fired, want them charged criminally.
The officers have been placed on desk duty while an investigation continues.
Beck told members of Black Lives Matter he cannot legally fire the two officers at this time.
A civilian Police Commission will decide if the shooting was justified, said Los Angeles police spokesman Commander Andrew Smith. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)