HEMET– A man who repeatedly threatened to kill a United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer was sentenced today to 18 months in prison. Richard Latka, 57, of Hemet, was found guilty by a federal jury in October of threatening to assault and murder an officer who was investigating Latka of dumping trash in the San Bernardino National Forest.
According to the evidence presented at the trial, the Forest Service Officer went to a residence on Persimmons Lane in Hemet in October 2014 to investigate a large amount of 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 the owner of the home. Latka then ran toward the officer with clenched fists. Believing that Latka intended to hit him, the officer drew his Taser and ordered Latka to stop. Latka stopped running but continued screaming at the officer. The officer tried to diffuse the situation by retreating to his car, but Latka followed the officer, continued to scream at him, and then pounded with both fists on the driver’s side window of the officer’s marked law enforcement vehicle. The officer drove away, but Latka pursued the officer in his own car, screaming that he was going to kill the officer. At one, Latka pulled up beside the officer and yelled, “Next time you’re dead!” Witnesses reported that Latka later returned to the home and screamed to them that he was going to kill the officer.
“This federal law enforcement officer faced serious threats of assault and murder. The officer did everything he could to de-escalate the situation,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Instead of de-escalating, Mr. Latka made repeated threats to harm the officer, who was acting both lawfully and prudently. As a result of his dangerous conduct, his unwillingness to comply with law enforcement, and his failure to accept responsibility for his crime, Mr. Latka has earned this prison term.”
The case against Latka was the product of an investigation by the United States Forest Service.