A judge ruled Thursday that an Iraq war veteran was legally insane when he shot and killed his 73-year-old neighbor and wounded the neighbor's wife at a Reseda apartment building in December 2013.
Superior Court Judge Susan Speer made the finding after reviewing reports from three experts in the case of Ricardo Javier Tapia, 35, who pleaded no contest April 28 to the Dec. 20, 2013, murder of Giam Kim Hoang and the attempted murder of Hoang's wife, Ngoc Hoan Thi Nguyen, 61.
Tapia will be sent to Patton State Hospital for treatment for at least six months, according to his attorney, William M. Paparian.
Tapia's lawyer said he will then ask for his client to be sent to a Veterans Administration residential facility for treatment of a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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"My goal is to get him the treatment that I believe he desperately needs," Paparian said.
Tapia's attorney said his client was deployed three times to Iraq and was knocked unconscious twice while serving in the military before he went on to serve at three embassies as part of the Marine Corps' security guard program. He was honorably discharged from the military in 2010.
Tapia was taken to a VA hospital in December 2013 on an involuntary psychiatric hold after his fiancee called 911 about his erratic behavior, but he was released a day later and his handgun was not confiscated by police, according to his lawyer.
Paparian described his client as having a “psychotic breakdown” and said Tapia heard something dropped on the floor above his apartment and told his fiancee that they were under attack and that he would protect them.
As Tapia's fiancee called 911, he went upstairs, shot and killed Hoang and wounded Hoang's wife, and then told responding police officers, “I've got this,” according to his attorney.
Deputy District Attorney Edward Nison called the case “a tragedy all the way around,” noting that Tapia was a decorated military veteran who had “absolutely nothing negative in his military career,” no criminal record and “no motive” for the attack.
“Based on the reports and evaluating the circumstances of the crime, it appears that the finding was correct based upon the standard of preponderance of the evidence,” the prosecutor said.
“It's just a tragedy in the truest sense of the word.”