The Stanislaus County district attorney’s office today determined that a Modesto police officer was "legally justified in her use of deadly force" when she shot and killed a man carrying a samurai sword during a confrontation in January in downtown Modesto.
Officer Latisha Leap shot Richard Phillip Robles Jr. shortly after 5 a.m. on Jan. 11. He died at an area hospital about an hour later.
Robles, 45, had been acting "bizarre and unusual" outside the Double Tree Hotel on K Street near Ninth Street, according to a Modesto Fire Department official.
Robles had a history of violent confrontations with authorities, according to public records collected by The Bee.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
The district attorney’s office released on Tuesday afternoon this account of the incident:
Leap received a call from dispatchers at 5:08 a.m. and responded to the location. Initially, she did not see a man with a sword, but as she drove her patrol car on K Street, she noticed a truck that matched the description given by the fire captain.
The officer used her spotlight to illuminate the truck to determine if anyone was inside. She saw an arm rise up and the occupant "flipped" her off.
She backed up her patrol car several feet and then called in the license plate number to dispatch for a registration check at 5:10 a.m. The officer then got out of her car; the occupant of the truck, later identified as Robles, was already outside of his truck and leaning on what appeared to be a sword in a scabbard. The officer tried to talk with Robles but he began to rant.
He was standing about 10 to 13 feet from the officer. At 5:11 a.m., the officer radioed for another police officer to come to her location because Robles was uncooperative.
Robles began to yell and demand that the officer leave. The officer told Robles she needed to talk with him and asked him to put down the sword. Robles then pulled the sword from its scabbard and raised it over his head. The officer was then certain that the item was a sword over 3 feet in length and she immediately drew her gun.
Leap ordered him to stop and to drop the sword. Robles did not stop, but instead advanced on the officer. The officer backed away, yelling for Robles to stop and "drop it." A civilian witness who heard the confrontation confirmed this to investigators. Robles continued moving toward the officer with the sword raised over his head.
The officer, fearing for her life, retreated and fired three rounds at Robles, the district attorney’s office said. Robles, however, did not stop or drop the sword.
Robles continued to advance on the officer and she continued to retreat and fired again. At this time Robles stopped, bent over, but still did not drop the sword.
Robles then threw the sword at the officer as she continued moving backwards. Robles subsequently collapsed.From the moment of the officer’s request for the registration, less than two minutes had passed.