Central Valley

Samurai-wielding man killed by officer identified

MODESTO -- The man shot and killed by a police officer Sunday morning had a history of violent confrontations with authorities, public records show.

Richard Phillip Robles Jr., 45, died Sunday after Modesto police officer Latisha Leap shot him during a confrontation about 5 a.m. Robles, who had a history of mental illness, had been spotted downtown acting bizarrely and carrying a samurai sword.

Leap was placed on administrative leave, which is common procedure in shooting cases involving officers.

Family members described Robles as a loving person who visited his mother daily in the hospital last year when she was ill.

But court documents and police reports show another side.

The Modesto police and Stanislaus County sheriff's departments, responding to a public records act request, provided information about two felony cases involving confrontations between Robles and authorities.

In 1998, Robles pleaded guilty after threatening two sheriff's deputies with a military bayonet and a knife, according to Sheriff Adam Christianson.

The case stemmed from an incident in April 1997 when officers were called to the 800 block of Erickson Avenue to respond to a family dispute. Christianson said Robles had been threatening his family and was armed with a knife.

"He was highly agitated and wanted us to leave," said Christianson, reading over the report Wednesday night.

Jail time

Robles ran into what was described in the report as a small apartment, where he "armed himself with a large knife, a military bayonet, and approached our deputies." He came within six or seven feet of the officers and verbally threatened them while ignoring the deputies' requests to drop the knife, Christianson said. At that point, the officers called the SWAT team.

Robles "was inside the apartment stabbing the ceiling with the bayonet, and stabbing the walls and floors with a knife. There was some other bizarre activity inside," Christianson said. "He continued to walk around inside, holding the knives and slashing them toward officers." Eventually the SWAT team arrived.

Several hours later, family members convinced Robles to surrender, Christianson said.

Robles pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to one year in jail and was placed on three years of probation.

In June 2005, a police report said, a Modesto police officer stopped Robles after Robles failed to use his turn signal in the 1100 block of West Orangeburg Avenue. According to police, Robles got out of his vehicle and would not follow orders to get back inside. A second officer responded and tried to take Robles into custody. Robles "swung his arms wildly -- striking (the officer) several times." Robles ran away. Authorities used a police dog to catch him and took him into custody. He was charged with resisting arrest and pleaded no contest in May 2007, according to court records. He was sentenced to time served, 354 days, and was placed on probation for three years.

During the case, Robles was committed to Atascadero State Hospital because, according to court documents, he refused to take anti-psychotic medication.

On a letter dated Sept. 6, 2006, a box was checked next to the statement, "The defendant lacks the capacity to make antipsychotic medication decisions but urgently needs such medication."

Declared competent

By April 2007, Atascadero's acting medical director stated in a letter that Robles was competent and that Robles "probably does not need placement in a psychiatric facility in order to maintain competence to stand trial."

Few details have emerged from the Police Department about what prompted the officer to shoot Robles on Sunday morning, but authorities say they will be more forthcoming once their investigation is complete.

Jim Hernandez, Robles' former father-in-law, said Wednesday that he would remember Robles as someone who was good at fixing things, whether a car or a stereo, and that he was an avid player of golf, chess and cribbage.

Hernandez said Robles also liked to watch animated movies with sword-fighting scenes. He remembered Robles playing with swords several years ago but said he never felt threatened.

"He was always fascinated with swords," Hernandez said. "He used to go outside on the sidewalk and play with a sword like he was fighting somebody."