L.A. Digest West Edition

Grieving mother asks Police Commission for answers

LOS ANGELES — The grieving mother of a young black man killed by police at a Watts public housing project vented her frustrations at the Police Commission meeting Aug. 16, saying department officials who promised to meet with her have yet to reach out to her.

Lisa Simpson told the panel she has not received any calls from department officials since last week, when Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff informed her that if she gave them her phone number, she would get a call within 24 hours.

“Sir, I can show you my phone,” Simpson said, addressing Commission President Matthew Johnson. “I ain’t got no reason to lie to you. Nobody have called my phone yet.”

She said she has been expecting a call for at least three weeks, ever since the July 25 fatal shooting of her son, 18-year-old Apple Valley resident Richard Risher. The shooting, which also left a police officer wounded, occurred amid what police described as a running gun battle at the Nickerson Gardens public housing complex.

When Johnson assured Simpson that he will “make sure that someone gets back to you today,” she interjected, saying she would not leave the podium until she got an immediate meeting.

“I’m tired of the ‘make sure somebody calls,’” Simpson said. “Somebody needs to talk to me today. You all gotta take me to jail. I’m so furious, because it’s sad.”

Simpson then appealed to newly appointed Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill, telling her, “Now you see what I’m talking about, Cynthia? Do you see what I’m talking about, sister? They push us under the rug, put us down, don’t want to hear what we gotta say, and then they’re cowards. They won’t even respond.”

After Johnson said he could not offer anything more to Simpson at this time, and tried to get her to leave the podium, Simpson broke into sobs and shouted, “I’m so furious with all of you all! I’m so [expletive] furious! … They killed my baby!”

As a crowd grew around Simpson, with activists on one side and police officers on the other, McClain-Hill stood up from the dais and offered to meet with Simpson, saying “Will you meet with me and the gentleman [referring to an LAPD official]? OK, I’ll go.”

McClain-Hill made her way into the middle of the crowd, where she put her arms around Simpson and led her out of the board room, which was then cleared of audience members for a brief recess.

It was not the first time Simpson has insisted on a meeting with department officials. Earlier this month, Simpson and several activists briefly shut down traffic outside LAPD headquarters to protest what she said was “excessive force” by the officer or officers who killed her son. After the protest, she said department officials seemed willing to meet with her and had given her their business cards.

But Simpson said she has not yet received a phone call nor gotten details about her son’s death, such as the name of the officer who killed her son. She also said she has not seen an autopsy report, a police report nor a death certificate.

Simpson’s emotional comments came as members of the Police Commission are attempting to adopt a more empathetic approach to the grievances regularly aired by activists from Black Lives Matter and by family members of people who were killed by police or died in police custody.

McClain-Hill, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s latest appointee to the commission, has said her goal on the panel is to address a “crisis” in the department’s relationships with the community. During her confirmation hearing, one councilman noted he was encouraged that McClain-Hill told him in a prior conversation that as the mother of a black son, she has a personal stake in the Police Commission’s business.

Lisa Hines, the mother of Wakiesha Wilson, a 36-year-old black woman who was found dead in her cell on Easter Sunday, is a regular Police Commission attendee who has also complained of inadequate response from the police department regarding her daughter’s death.

Hines said during a recent news conference organized by Black Lives Matter — which has been staging a sit-in to demand that Police Chief Charlie Beck be fired — that the police department unnecessarily delayed telling her of her daughter’s death. Hines said she had to make several phone calls to the LAPD before she was given a phone number, without any further explanation, to the coroner’s office.

“If this was your child and you were looking for her, and somebody gave you a number to call … and when you do call the number, the coroner’s office answers, what would be going on in your body, mind and soul?” she said.

The commission meeting also included comments from the attorney for the mother of a 14-year-old boy who was killed by police in Boyle Heights Aug. 9. Echoing comments he made last week, the attorney again demanded the department release body camera footage that the family contends may include information that conflicts with the official LAPD account.