A former Simi Valley reserve police officer, who said he shot himself and reported that the wound was inflicted in an ambush because he wanted to win back his estranged wife, pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report of an emergency.
"It kinda just happened. I don't know how it happened. I really don't know what was going through my mind," Richard A. Todd said in a telephone interview after his lawyer entered the plea for him in Ventura Municipal Court. Todd was not present in court.
"What I did, there's no other word for it but stupid," he said. "This is not a regular Rick Todd move. This is totally out of my character."
Todd had been a reserve officer for a year and was on his first night of patrol without a senior officer the night of the staged shooting.
"Normally I'm very level-headed and very stable," he said. "I mean, people come to me with problems.
"I still can't believe this whole thing happened, because all my life all I ever wanted to do was be a police officer. I never expected to be on the other side of the law, and that's where I'm at."
Todd, 25, had applied to become a full-time Simi Valley police officer about two weeks before the shooting.
Ventura County Deputy Dist Atty. Edward F. Brodie ordered a second misdemeanor count of filing a false police report dropped. Municipal Court Judge Ken Yegan set sentencing for Dec. 11 and ordered a formal probation report, including a psychological evaluation.
The maximum penalty for the offense is one year in County Jail or a $1,000 fine, Brodie said.
Todd was an electronics technician working three nights a week as an unpaid volunteer reserve police officer when he shot himself three times in the chest and abdomen--protected by a bulletproof vest--and once in the right hand shortly after 9 p.m. on Oct. 9, police said.
Todd claimed that four or five assailants in their late teens or early 20s had jumped him as he got out of his patrol car to investigate a suspicious-looking man at a Simi Valley High School athletic field. Todd told police investigators that the youths threw him to the ground and shot him several times with his .38-caliber revolver, then handcuffed him to a baseball backstop and fled.
Todd's right hand required several stitches, but his bulletproof vest deflected three other bullets, causing only bruises on Todd's chest and abdomen. A fifth bullet pierced his shoe but caused no injury to his foot.
Todd, hailed as a hero, was taken to Simi Valley Adventist Hospital, where his estranged wife visited at his bedside. But she did not return to live with him as he had hoped.
Depressed Over Separation
Simi Valley police officials have described the shooting as premeditated, but Todd said the idea came to him suddenly while he was deeply depressed over his separation from his wife of two years, Kaydi, 23, whom he met six years ago while they were working at a Simi Valley department store.
Because of their difficulties, which Todd declined to discuss, Todd had moved in with his parents in Simi Valley, leaving Kaydi in the couple's apartment.
"The thing was, I wasn't thinking rationally. I was thinking in fantasy," Todd said, thinking that, if he was reported to be wounded, "my wife would say, 'Oh God, I almost lost him,' and she would come back, and we'd live happily ever after. . . . The only thing that was on my mind was my marriage. I really wanted things to work out.
"What I had done, is I had just gotten out (of the patrol car) to get some air and walk around and clear my head. Things had gotten more jumbled up in my head. I thought to myself, 'Maybe if I shot myself, Kaydi would come running back to me.' Another voice said, 'Don't be stupid, that's not going to work.'
"Your reflexes and such just take over and control the whole body. I didn't mean to actually shoot myself. All I was really intending to do was kind of graze myself, just have the bullet flash off the side of the vest. I guess I wasn't as good a shot as I thought."
Shot Hand Accidentally
Todd said he also shot his hand accidentally, that it was struck by a bullet that he meant only to glance off the bulletproof vest.
"I didn't even mean for things to get out of hand, as far as the police were concerned," he said. But, in the aftermath, "this big snowball had begun to roll," he said, including the launching of a manhunt for his supposed assailants.
"I wanted to tell everybody, 'No, that wasn't how it happened,' " he said. "Something inside kept telling me, 'No, no, no.' The snowball kept getting bigger and rolling down the hill.
"If it hadn't come out when it came out, I would have told the truth soon. My stomach was just absolutely churning. I couldn't eat or anything."
Fired for Incident
Simi police officials were embarrassed and angry when evidence revealed Todd's shooting to be a hoax. They fired him and took his gun, badge and uniform. With the exception of his training officer, no one on the Simi Valley force has spoken to him since then, Todd said. He was fired from his drafting job as well and is now unemployed and living with his parents.
"I'm sorry that I dragged the whole, entire Simi Valley Police Department into my personal problems," Todd said. "And I'm sorry that I dragged my family into it where I embarrassed them. In my wildest dreams I never dreamt that I would disgrace the uniform. To know that I did something like that really hurts. It really hurts bad."
Todd's wife has begun to discuss divorce, and his future is a blank, said Todd, who will turn 26 on Sunday. Todd said that he has been paying for psychological counseling for himself since shortly after the shooting.
"I'm going to have to live with this for the rest of my life because, every time I look at my finger, I'll remember what happened," he said. "I'm afraid to go out in Simi Valley because I'm going to be recognized. I've had some comments made to me at Simi Valley stores and stuff."
Todd is accustomed to praise, not shame.
Likes to Help People
"I like doing things that help people," said Todd, a former Boy Scout who has coached football and Little League teams, belongs to the Knights of Columbus and plays Santa Claus every year at a Ventura County facility for retarded children.
Todd said that his parents, Earl and Maeros Todd, have been supportive. "If there's one thing this thing has done, it's brought the family closer together," he said. "They said the regular parent stuff: 'That was pretty stupid,' that kind of stuff. . . . But, like they've always told me, I'll always be their son, and they'll always be my parents.
"What I'm going to try to do is just turn this whole thing around and just maybe make it some good.
"Like the psychologist told me, I've hit rock bottom, I can't go any farther down."