LOS ANGELES– A man who threatened to kill a United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer who came to the man's home to ask about trash dumped in the San Bernardino National Forest has been convicted by a federal jury.
Richard Latka, 56, of Hemet, was convicted yesterday afternoon in United States District Court of threatening a federal officer.
According to the evidence presented at the trial, the Forest Service Officer went to a residence in Hemet in October 2014 to investigate trash that had recently been dumped in the nearby national forest. The officer encountered Latka in the front yard of the residence, and Latka reacted angrily when the officer said he wished to speak to “Mr. Morales” without telling Latka why. Latka then ran toward the officer with clenched fists. Believing that Latka intended to hit him, the officer drew his Taser gun. Latka stopped running but continued screaming at the officer. The officer tried to remove himself from the situation by getting into his car, but Latka continued to scream at the officer and pounded on the window of the marked law enforcement vehicle with his fist. The officer drove away, but Latka followed in his own car, yelling “next time you're dead.” Witnesses reported that Latka later said that he would “get” the officer and that he was going to kill him.
“Threatening the lives of law enforcement officers will not be tolerated,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The officer in this case took many steps to de-escalate the situation and prevent it from getting worse. If not for the officer's professionalism and calm, the defendant's conduct could have become more violent and dangerous.”
United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who presided over the trial, set sentencing for January 25, 2016, at which time Latka will face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, a three-year period of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
The case against Latka is the product of an investigation by the United States Forest Service.
USAO – California, Central Updated October 30, 2015
Central District of California DOJ / 15-120 / October 30, 2015