BARSTOW A former Barstow Police Department officer who ran for a City Council seat in 2008 was arrested Tuesday afternoon on felony charges.

Richard Michael Villegas, 29, was arrested from his home in Barstow on Tuesday on suspicion of attempted kidnapping, robbery, and making criminal threats, according to San Bernardino County jail records.

He was being held at the West Valley Detention Center Wednesday with his bail set at $500,000.

Police Chief Dianne Burns, citing an ongoing investigation, declined to give details on the circumstances surrounding the arrest, including when and where the alleged crimes took place and who reported them. Reached by phone at Villegas' home, a woman who identified herself as Villegas' wife but declined to give her name said she did not feel comfortable talking about the case.

Neighbors of the couple who were home Wednesday morning said they knew nothing about what had happened, although one recalled seeing a police car in front of Villegas' house the previous day.

Luke Haefele, a friend of Villegas' who had recently assisted him in cleaning a military memorial that vandals had defaced with animal feces, said he was unaware of the arrest Wednesday and had no explanation for what might have happened.

"I would say it's extremely out of character," he said.

Villegas lives with his wife and three children and works for the federal government, Haefele said, although he did not know where.

According to the city's human resources department, Villegas was hired on for the police academy in July of 2007 and promoted to officer in December. He was terminated in April of 2008, before the end of his year-long probationary period. Burns declined to discuss Villegas' employment with the police department due to personnel confidentiality issues.

Villegas placed fourth out of seven candidates running for two open Barstow City Council seats in the November 2008 general election, garnering 16.23 percent of the vote.

His arraignment was scheduled for Thursday.

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