Knife Carrying Man Shot in Merced Courthouse

April 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Atwater man is dead after bursting into a Merced County courtroom carrying two carving knives.Investigators are still trying to figure out exactly how and why this bizarre situation happened but Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said deputies did exactly what they were trained to do.

The unarmed security guards, metal detectors, and x-ray machine at the entrance of the Merced County Courthouse could not stop Robert Eaton Monday afternoon. "Mr. Eaton is a rather sizable individual, standing at 6'4" and 240 pounds. So he had a full head of steam heading down the hallway with two rather large knives in his hand," said Sheriff Mark Pazin.

Sheriff Mark Pazin said Eaton was carrying one knife in each hand as he ran past security, nearly 100 yards down a hallway into courtroom number two. Judge Brian McCabe was at the far end of the room when authorities said Eaton ran in waving the weapons. "Our deputies repeatedly told the individual, pleaded with him to drop the knives, he did not comply," said Pazin.

That's when witnesses said the deputies started shooting; killing Eaton.

Robert Eaton has had a history of crimes including vandalism, auto theft and alcohol related incidents. Just over a year ago he rammed his car into the old Merced County court building a block away from the new courthouse. In that incident Eaton claimed he was frustrated because he was unable to obtain mental health care.

He was recently receiving some kind of treatment. In this latest incident, he carjacked a social worker who was driving him to a medical appointment. She was not hurt. The social worker told deputies she thought Eaton was schizophrenic.

Because of confidentiality issues the Sherriff said he can't comment on Eaton's medical or psychological problems. But said he can't rule out the possibility Eaton wanted to die.

Investigators will be looking at surveillance video as they try to figure out exactly how Eaton made it all the way to the courtroom. Sheriff Pazin said he plans to look into funding to arm security guards at the courthouse entrance in the future.


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