SoCal Officer Recalls Killing Ax-Wielding Man - NBC Southern California
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SoCal Officer Recalls Killing Ax-Wielding Man

As news focuses on an officer in Ferguson who was not indicted for fatally shooting an unarmed man, a Southern California officer recalls a fatal shootingfficer

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In the wake of the Ferguson decision not to indict an officer who fatally shot an unarmed teen, NBC4 explores officer-involved shootings in Southern California and their outcomes. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. (Published Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014)

    Retired officer Richard Lichten shot and nearly killed a man who was swinging an ax at his head while on patrol in 1983.

    "In defense of my life, I had to fire," Lichten said. "I'll never forget that feeling — how scary and terrifying it was."

    He's not surprised by an NBC4's I-Team report that found an average of two and a half officer-involved shootings every week in five counties in Southern California.

    Almost none of those officers are criminally prosecuted.

    Over four years, three people were shot by police in one neighborhood at Broadway and East Third Street in Long Beach, a city with about 470,000 people.

    "We're not in a real good spot," said Travis Wynn, who's lived in Long Beach for 20 years.

    He says it makes sense that cops shoot people more often here.

    There's more street crime, he said. It's a low-income neighborhood and there are narcotics there.

    Lichten agrees.

    If police are deployed in higher crime areas, it stands to reason that the probability of an officer-involved shooting goes up.

    Each case has to be examined separately. Clusters of shootings only tell part of the story, he said.

    "What type of policing is being done? The response times? What type of crime was the officer responding to?" he said.

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