A jewelry store owner who was gunned down in his wheelchair Friday night in Beverly Hills has been identified as Clarence Phillip Watson, a man who once won a $3.5-million settlement after he was shot and paralyzed by Los Angeles police.
On Sunday, Beverly Hills police were still searching for suspects and had not determined a motive for the killing.
Witnesses reported seeing a man who was carrying a handgun flee the scene shortly before 9 p.m. Friday. Watson, 33, was found in front of his store in the 8000 block of Wilshire Boulevard with multiple gunshot wounds.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday May 23, 2000 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 64 words Type of Material: Correction
Shooting victim--A Times story Monday about the shooting of jewelry store owner Clarence Watson last week incorrectly stated that Los Angeles City Councilwoman Laura Chick expressed regret over a 1996 settlement between Watson and the city. In fact, Chick's comment was about the general difficulties of being a police officer and not specifically in reference to the $3.5-million settlement, which Watson won after being shot and paralyzed by the LAPD.
Family members said Watson was a partial owner of Nina Jewelry and Loan Collateral Lenders, and confirmed that he was the person who had won the settlement from the city of Los Angeles in 1996.
"He was a very good man," said the victim's grandmother. "He loved his family."
Watson's relatives declined to comment in detail, adding only that he lived in Diamond Bar and had two children.
A convicted drug dealer, Watson was paralyzed in 1993 after being shot by two LAPD officers during a pursuit in South-Central Los Angeles.
The officers, Clifford Bernard and Noe Rodriguez, said they tried to pull Watson over when he pointed a gun at them through the sunroof of his car.
Watson fled on foot. Rodriguez tried to cut off his escape with the car, while Bernard ran after him and then shot him five times, according to news reports. The first bullets brought Watson to the ground and knocked the gun from his hand. Then two more bullets struck him in the back and spine.
LAPD investigators ruled that the shooting was an acceptable use of force.
But a jury awarded Watson $4.9 million in 1995, sparking outrage among city leaders. Speaking to Los Angeles Police Academy graduates, Mayor Richard Riordan called the case "a travesty of justice, an embarrassment and an affront to every Angeleno."
Councilwoman Laura Chick also expressed regret over the verdict. "It's one of the most challenging and difficult times to be a member of the LAPD," she said at the time. "Standing next to you, standing behind you, when you turn around, you have the support of the elected officials in this city."
Watson's attorney, however, said the "physical evidence indicated the officer was being less than truthful."
"A police officer was responsible for putting a young man in a wheelchair for the next 40 years of his life by shooting a man in the back twice while he was unarmed," said attorney Daniel Rodriguez.
Riordan and the City Council grudgingly agreed not to appeal the ruling and signed a reduced award of $3.5 million, at the time one of the largest settlements in the city's history.