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MAN POLICE SHOT AT LAFAYETTE HOTEL CALLED MENTALLY ILL

The man wounded by Buffalo police during an armed confrontation Dec. 4 at a downtown hotel is mentally ill and blames police for his mother's death, law enforcement sources said.

Now under guard in the Erie County Medical Center pending the completion of psychiatric tests, Richard Rhodes, 47, also has been brooding for the past eight years about the seizure of his shotgun during a similar confrontation, according to sources and records.

Before police shot Rhodes and seized his sawed-off, .22-caliber rifle in a second-floor corridor of the Lafayette Hotel, Rhodes threatened to kill officers for "stealing" his sawed-off shotgun during an incident on Grider Street in December 1982, sources said.

Rhodes, a laborer who was born in St. Louis, pointed his rifle at Lt. Michael McParlane and Officers Salvatore Losi and Mark Mullins about 4:45 p.m. Dec. 4.

"I'm not going to drop my gun," he was quoted as saying. "Try to get it from me. I'll kill you. You killed my mother, I'll get you. You stole my shotgun."

On Dec. 20, 1982, Buffalo police arrested Rhodes and confiscated a knife and a sawed-off shotgun in the 400 block of Grider Street, near the Erie County Medical Center.

At the county hospital, psychiatric staff members who examined Rhodes in December 1982 called his behavior "quite bizarre . . . very paranoid," according to records.

In the 1982 case, Rhodes, then living in North Tonawanda, was charged with felony weapons counts. He was allowed to plead guilty in March 1983 in Buffalo City Court to a reduced charge of misdemeanor weapons possession. He was placed on probation for one year.

Since 1982, Rhodes, 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 130 pounds, has been hospitalized several times for schizophrenia, according to prosecution documents. He moved to the area in his late teens, sources said.

In the aftermath of the Dec. 4 incident, officials of the Erie County Forensic Mental Health Service have diagnosed Rhodes as a paranoid schizophrenic and are continuing to test him to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial, sources said.

Rhodes is under guard in the medical center pending a grand jury probe scheduled to begin this week. He has threatened to kill police over the past three weeks, several law enforcement sources said.

Although prosecutors declined to comment, sources said the Erie County district attorney's office persuaded Erie County Judge Timothy J. Drury to raise the bail on Rhodes -- who lives on a government disability pension -- from $10,000 to $30,000 because of the threats.

Rhodes has threatened that he will "try to kill a policeman" when he gets released, according to one source.

Erie County District Attorney Kevin M. Dillon, who refused to comment on the case, earlier said he had ruled out a grand jury probe of the conduct of police officers in the Dec. 4 shooting, but he has refused to say why.

Law enforcement sources said an Erie County grand jury began hearing evidence in the case Friday.

Rhodes, wounded in the left arm during the Dec. 4 confrontation, is being held on reckless endangerment and weapons charges.

Police were called to the Lafayette Hotel after Rhodes, who had been living there since July, was spotted carrying a rifle beneath his coat in the lobby.

When officers arrived shortly after 4:30 p.m., they found Rhodes leaving his second-floor apartment, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, using a piece of rope as a sling, sources said.

As soon as Rhodes saw uniformed police officers, he pointed his rifle at the officers and yelled, "You stole my shotgun and I'll shoot you for sure," sources added.

Several police officers fired at Rhodes as he appeared to be pulling the trigger, sources said.

Daniel J. Henry Jr., Rhodes' court-assigned lawyer, said authorities confirmed to him that Rhodes didn't fire at police.

"There was no discharge from his weapon," Henry said. "He never fired at them."

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