PASADENA — A former mental patient who reportedly had threatened a Superior Court judge was arrested Wednesday morning after he carried two loaded pistols into a courtroom minutes before he was to appear before the judge on an arson charge.
Leslie Michael Swayne, 42, of Altadena offered no resistance when four bailiffs confronted him moments after he sat down in the back row of Judge Coleman A. Swart's courtroom, Sheriff's Deputy Larry Farnsworth said. A .22-caliber automatic and a .32-caliber automatic were found in his jacket pockets, said Farnsworth, Swart's bailiff. Swayne will be charged with possession of a gun in a courthouse, a felony, authorities said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Jud Morris said the incident began when several Swayne family members contacted him about half an hour before Swayne's scheduled 9 a.m. court appearance to warn that Swayne might be dangerous.
"They came in to see me and said he told them he was going to kill the judge and he was going to kill his lawyer," Morris said. "(They said) he was going to kill anyone who was going to stop him. After talking to his family, I was convinced he was a walking time bomb."
Swayne was found incompetent to stand trial on the arson charge last year and was sent to Patton State Hospital for psychiatric treatment, court clerk Penny Louise said. He was later certified as competent to stand trial and was released in September on $10,000 bail. He is accused of attempting to burn down his parents' Altadena residence.
Morris said he notified the main bailiff's station on the ground floor of the courthouse, which sent help and relayed the message to Farnsworth in Swart's fifth-floor courtroom just as Swayne entered.
Because Swayne's was the first case of the day, few people were in the courtroom when Swayne arrived shortly after 9 a.m., Morris said. Swart and other court employees were told to stay out of the room.
When Morris arrived in the courtroom, he found Swayne there with Farnsworth, Deputy Public Defender Phillip Lipson and another attorney. Morris said he maneuvered the other lawyers out of the potential line of fire, but did not alert them for fear that would arouse Swayne's suspicion. Moments later, bailiffs confronted Swayne and disarmed him.
"I was a deputy sheriff for 10 years and a D. A.'s investigator for two, so I had some kind of experience in this stuff," Morris said. "It scared hell out of me, quite frankly. When I saw them taking the guns off him my heart went pitty-pat. It was real close."