Leonard arrested on charge of attempted murder

"Bainbridge Police had spent the past several weeks pondering several possible ways to recapture Ralph F. Leonard, newly accused of a police officer’s attempted murder last year.The last thing anyone expected was that Leonard, whose violent past and paranoia toward police was well documented over the past year, would come to them."

  • Sunday, December 19, 1999 9:00am
  • News

“Bainbridge Police had spent the past several weeks pondering several possible ways to recapture Ralph F. Leonard, newly accused of a police officer’s attempted murder last year.The last thing anyone expected was that Leonard, whose violent past and paranoia toward police was well documented over the past year, would come to them.That’s precisely what the 62-year-old Eagle Harbor liveaboard resident did Thursday afternoon, however. He even shook the hand of the man whose head he allegedly grazed with a shotgun blast scarcely a year before.Moments later, Leonard was in police custody, re-arrested for the attempted murder charge and 16 other criminal counts in connection with two separate November 1998 incidents that culminated in a Blakely Harbor shootout with Bainbridge officers.He remains in jail on $500,000 bail after being arraigned Friday afternoon in Kitsap County Superior Court.“We grabbed him, but he didn’t fight, didn’t yell,” said administrative Lieutenant Scott Weiss, acting chief during Bill Cooper’s vacation and the officer whose forehead prosecutors say was brushed by Leonard’s shotgun blast.“I’m really glad it went down the way it did, and I’m glad he’s finally off the streets.”Free since September after last year’s charges were dismissed without prejudice and subsequent civil commitment proceedings were mysteriously dropped by Kitsap County prosecutors, Leonard had been living on his two ramshackle boats in Blakely Harbor and most recently in Eagle Harbor.County prosecutor Russ Hauge, lobbied extensively by Bainbridge officers and residents, reviewed the case and agreed Nov. 22 to reinstate the charges against Leonard. They include one count of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and first-degree assault, four counts of second degree assault, two counts of intimidating a public servant, two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm.“The case never died,” Hauge told the Review in an interview last month. “It was an open, active and pending case.”Cooper and his lieutenants didn’t want take the risk of reprising last year’s shootout by trying to recapture Leonard on his boats, which were towed in early November from Blakely Harbor to Eagle Harbor through a hat-passing campaign organized by neighbors who wanted him out of their area.Reports issued during Leonard’s stays in the Kitsap County Jail and Western State Hospital earlier in the year documented, at length, a history of alcohol abuse and deteriorating mental state.So they staged rain-soaked stakeouts, drew up painstaking contingency plans and exhaustively emphasized that Leonard, believed to be carrying deadly weapons under the heavy clothing he wore, was not to be accosted on land without the presence of at least half a dozen backup officers.The stakeouts had been set aside the past few weeks, first after Bainbridge officers were summoned to duty during the World Trade Organization protest riots and this week during Cooper’s vacation. Thursday, the officers got a surprise quite unlike any they had bargained for.An island attorney called the police station on Leonard’s behalf, saying the suspect wished to pick up items – including a chainsaw – seized by police during the 1998 incident and held in evidence storage since. He was unaware of the reissued arrest warrant, Weiss said.Leonard entered the station about 3 p.m. and was greeted by Weiss.“I don’t think he had any idea who I am,” he said.After some polite cajoling from Detective Steve Cain, Leonard allowed himself to be drawn toward the back of the station, ostensibly toward the evidence locker. Moments later, he was seized by a sea of blue uniforms, which had been hidden in the reception area and several adjacent offices.Police found that Leonard carried no weapons but was in possession of a marijuana pipe, which could result in another felony charge, Weiss said.The arrest brings closure to Leonard’s latest – and possibly last – stay in the Bainbridge community, but not to the questions surrounding his release and his future in the Kitsap criminal justice system:• Why was Leonard deemed too unstable to stand trial on last year’s charges, but stable enough to elude civil commitment and be released back into the community?Hauge declined to speak directly to the issue, citing state laws shielding the civil commitment process. He did say, however, that once the charges were dismissed and the civil proceedings began, “(we) couldn’t do much to intervene.“Our mental health professionals cannot simply inject themselves into (that) situation,” he said. “There has to be an immediate, precipitating act to trigger commitment … in this case, there was none.”• Did the prosecutor’s office allow Leonard to slip through the system’s cracks?Hauge, unequivocally, said no.“I can tell you conclusively … that neither Kitsap County Mental Health nor my office missed a deadline, nor failed to file a document, nor missed a hearing,” he said.• If the system worked as it was meant to, will the same cycle repeat itself during Leonard’s next odyssey through it?Leonard, after a brief stay in the county jail following his November 1998 arrest, was sent to Western State Hospital in Tacoma for the first of two 90-day evaluation periods. In July he was returned to the jail, and on Aug. 18 was judged mentally incompentent to stand trial for his crimes, according to court documents. Superior Court Judge William J. Kamps signed an Aug. 25 order to pursue Leonard’s civil commitment. From that point on, the court record is ominously silent.“All I can say is that (the commitment process) did not produce the result we wanted,” Hauge said. “We hope that won’t be the case again … We don’t see him as being anything other than a danger to the community.”But Friday, Hauge admitted that Leonard’s case could conceivably take that same course.“Will the same process apply? Yes,” Hauge said. “Is it possible that he could be found not competent to stand trial but not civilly committable? Yes.“Is it our intention that the same outcome occurs? No.””

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