State

Death certificate shows gunshots caused death

The man killed in downtown Modesto by a police officer earlier this month died from multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and abdomen, the Stanislaus County coroner's office said today.

Richard Phillip Robles Jr., 45, died Jan. 11 after Modesto police officer Latisha Leap shot him near the DoubleTree Hotel at 1150 Ninth St. Robles had a samurai sword, but authorities have not said whether he confronted the officer with it. A fire official had reported to emergency dispatchers that Robles was holding the sword and acting bizarre early that Sunday morning.

Police say they cannot release more information about the incident because of strict laws surrounding officer-involved shootings.

According to his death certificate, Robles died as a result of "multiple" gunshot wounds to his chest and abdomen. The number of times he was shot was not listed, a coroner's official said today.

A witness to the shooting reported hearing five gunshots.

Robles was taken to Doctors Medical Center and pronounced dead at 5:38 a.m., according to the coroner's office.

Whether Robles' death was, in fact, a homicide has not been officially determined, the official said.

Homicide refers to any killing of another person. There are several different types. For example, a homicide can be justifiable, if it is in self-defense, or negligent, such as if children left home alone die when a fire breaks out.

Homicide also can refer to murder, if it's a killing that's unlawful and malicious or premeditated, or manslaughter, when it's a killing that is unlawful but without malice.

Leap was placed on administrative leave during the police investigation, which is common procedure for an officer-involved shooting, said Modesto police Sgt. Brian Findlen. He said today that it is not appropriate to comment on whether Leap has returned to duty.

"The investigation is not complete," he said. "When it is, details will emerge about what we believe happened."

Stanislaus County Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said it could take several weeks for police reports about the incident to get to her office. All test results connected to the case, such as Robles' toxicology screening and any crime scene lab work, must be completed before the reports are turned over, she said.

Once the district attorney's office receives the reports, authorities will decide whether to file charges against the officer, Shipley said. If the shooting is deemed justifiable, the district attorney's office will send a letter to the Police Department with this information.

It will then be up to police to decide whether to release the ruling, she said.

Findlen said he could see no reason why police would withhold that information.

"At some point in time, we will explain the circumstances," he said. "We want to be as transparent as possible."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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