Police Commission: LAPD Officers Justified in Fatal Shooting of Teen During ‘Running Gunbattle’ in Watts

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Lisa Simpson, left, and Richard Risher Sr. embrace last summer in Nickerson Gardens, hours after their son was fatally shot by police during what the LAPD described as a "running gun battle" that also left an officer wounded. (Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Police Commission decided Tuesday that three officers were justified in fatally shooting an 18-year-old during what police have described as a “running gun battle” in a Watts housing project in which one officer was shot and wounded.

The civilian panel unanimously sided with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in clearing the officers in their use of deadly force against Richard Risher. The chief and the board also agreed, however, that two officers violated some of the department’s tactics during the encounter.

Risher died on a sidewalk last summer in Nickerson Gardens, creating tension in a housing project that has a complicated history with the police. Although the LAPD said Risher shot an officer in the arm — and shared a photo of the handgun found lying on some leaves — word that police had killed a young black man still angered many in the neighborhood.

The July 25 killing came after a series of deadly shootings around the country — both by and against police — that flared an already-tense debate over how officers use force, particularly against African Americans. Local activists turned Risher’s name into a hashtag they spread on social media. His mother repeatedly showed up to the commission’s weekly meetings, demanding justice for her son.

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