Fire rages at Modesto house surrounded after deputy killed

Sheriff identifies slain deputy as Robert Paris; other victim's name withheld

etracy@modbee.comApril 12, 2012 

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  • Facts about the double shooting in Modesto

    WHAT HAPPENED? About 11 a.m. Thursday, a Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy accompanied by another man tried to serve an eviction notice and were shot to death.

    WHERE DID THIS HAPPEN?At an apartment in the 2100 block of Chrysler Drive in northwest Modesto. The residence is in the Whispering Woods development, formerly known as Prescott Estates.

    WHO WERE THE VICTIMS? Deputy Robert Paris and a second man whose identity was still being withheld this morning.

    WHO IS THE SUSPECT? Law enforcement officials have not released any details about the man.

    I LIVE IN THE AREA. WHEN CAN I GO HOME? Authorities will determine that. The area is a complex crime scene, and investigators are likely to be on scene a long time. A shelter for evacuated residents was set up at the Prescott Evangelical Church, 3300 Prescott Road, at the intersection with Rumble Road.

UPDATE - 11:32 p.m. A Modesto fire department official says the home on Chrysler Drive is starting to collapse as the fire continues to burn.

Battalion Chief Hugo Patino said on his Twitter account: "Fire on Chrysler continues to burn. Structural collapse occurring. Fire crews doing a good job of protecting the exposures."

There was no word on whether the fire had spread to any other structures.

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UPDATE - 11:25 p.m. A sheriff's spokesman says investigators still don't know if a gunman holed up in a Modesto home is alive or dead. A huge fire was raging late tonight at the home on Chrysler Drive where earlier in the day a sheriff's deputy and another man were gunned down and killed.

In an interview with KCRA TV, Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said officers were not sure what the status was on the gunman.

"We're not sure at this point what actions he's taken and what he might be doing," Bejaran said.

Authorities were making contingency plans for what they would do if the gunman were to come out of the home, he said.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Adam Christianson told CBS 13 television that a deputy who was nearby when Deputy Robert Paris was gunned down was able to fire at the gunman. The sheriff told the TV station that he and Paris were friends and had served together as paramedics.

Christianson said it was likely the fire was started by incendiary devices and gas canisters the SWAT teams used to try to force the gunman out.

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UPDATE - 10:55 p.m. A huge fire has been burning for more than hour at a home on Chrysler Drive believed to be the one where the suspect in the fatal shootings of a sheriff's deputy and another man had holed up. Officials said they believed the suspect was on the first floor. The fire started upstairs. No word on the gunman's fate.

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UPDATE - 10:20 p.m. About 10:20 p.m. huge flames were spewing from the top of a home on Chrysler Drive believed to be the one where the suspect in the fatal shootings of a sheriff's deputy and another man had holed up.

FOX40 television was showing live pictures on its air and on a live stream on its Web site.

Hugo Patino of the Modesto fire department first mentioned the fire on his Twitter account about 9:45 p.m. About 15 minutes later, he specified that the fire was from the home SWAT teams had surrounded.

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UPDATE - 10:03 p.m. Hugo Patino of the Modesto fire department says on Twitter that a fire is burning in the second floor of the home on Chrysler Drive that SWAT teams have surrounded. No further details were available.

Here's what Patino wrote: "The fire on the 2nd floor is at the Chrysler incident. It continues to be visible."

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UPDATE - 9:55 p.m. SWAT team members did not enter the house but came closer as officers used a loudspeaker, telling the suspect to call 911 and surrender. They said they would guarantee his safety.

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UPDATE - 9:15 p.m. At least six SWAT team members have entered the house. No further information was immediately available.

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UPDATE - 7:30 p.m. About 7:30 p.m., just before sunset, reporters heard a loud bang and saw a flash coming from the area of the house that SWAT teams had surrounded. Reporters could not see what happened, but at least one robot had been brought to the scene earlier in the evening. There was no immediate word from authorities on what happened.

Also, sheriff's officials declined to release the name of a second deputy who was near the home when Deputy Robert Paris and another man were killed.

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UPDATE - 6:30 p.m. The deputy killed this morning on Chrysler Drive in Modesto was Robert Paris, Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

---- UPDATE - 5:15 p.m. As the standoff entered its seventh hour, SWAT teams from Stanislaus County, Modesto, Ceres and Merced County had the home surrounded. Two SWAT teams from San Joaquin County were on standby. The FBI and California Highway Patrol were also on scene.

About 5 p.m., Art De Werk, chief of Ceres police, said "the situation is stable and under control, so law enforcement is not going to rush in."

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A sheriff’s deputy and another man trying to serve an eviction notice at an apartment complex were shot dead Thursday by a man who holed up and was surrounded by a battalion of SWAT teams.

The standoff, still under way late in the afternoon, began right after the shootings occurred about 11 a.m. Dozens of neighbors were evacuated to a nearby church.

A man who lives nearby and did not give his name said the deputy and the man with him apparently were drilling through the lock on the apartment door in the 2100 block of Chrysler Drive when the suspect fired at them from inside.

Yemen Zokari and Steven Gasterlum, who said they live two doors down from the suspect, heard shots and saw two men on the ground, one on his stomach and the other on his back closer.

“There was another officer that was kneeling on the side of the house while they were laying there,” Zokari said. “I think he was staying out of the way from being shot.

“We just felt so bad. We wanted to do something but you can’t. What can you do? It’s traumatizing to see them.”

“I heard a gunshot,” said another witness who did not give his name. “Then I heard four gunshots. Then I heard three gunshots, then another four.”

Dozens of emergency vehicles converged on the apartment complex. SWAT teams from Stanislaus and neighboring counties surrounded the apartment building and fired bean bags and then tear gas into the home.

More than 100 law officers from at least 15 agencies came to assist the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and Modesto police. Intermittent rain showers pelted law enforcement and those gathered behind the crime scene tape.

Stanislaus Sheriff Adam Christianson said officers were sure the suspect was inside the home they’d surrounded.

“We don’t know anything about him,” he said shortly after noon. “We don’t know what the motive is behind this shooting. All we know is that we have two people dead, and a deputy sheriff, one of my valued members of my team is dead.”

Christianson declined to release the names of the victims. He said he did not believe they returned fire.

The man who saw the men drilling the lock said he watched officers remove the body of a man wearing a white T-shirt and jeans and saw four officers carry out the body of the deputy.

The shootings occured at Whispering Woods, a development of two-story fourplex apartments formerly known as Prescott Estates. Officers evacuated the complex because they feared the suspect was armed with explosives that might be detonated.

“Despite the harsh reality of our economic climate and the drastic budget cuts and staffing cuts I’ve taken, there’s no excuse for this,” Christianson said. “I am overwhelming frustrated with the fact that we don’t have sufficient resources to protect the community.”

Christianson spoke as sirens wailed in the background. Traffic in northwest Modesto was disrupted for much of the day because so many streets were blocked by police cars and armored vehicles.

Jittery neighbors and others who stood outside the perimeter thought they heard gunshots at various times in the afternoon, although law officials said there were none. When hard rain fell early in the afternoon, many of the people headed off although others milled around for hours.

Levi Middleton and Jennifer Diaz, who live across the street from where the shooting happened, said they heard multiple gunshots in rapid succession, as if the rounds were fired from a semi-automatic weapon.

Middleton and Diaz said officers first told them to stay inside, and they later were told to evacuate. An evacuation center was set up at the nearby Prescott Evangelical Free Church.

UPDATE - 3:15 p.m. The standoff has entered its fifth hour. More than 100 law enforcement officers are on scene, representing at least 15 agencies. Four SWAT teams are involved, as is the Stanislaus County bomb squad.

Authorities were withholding the names of the two men who were killed, one of them a sheriff's deputy, the other described by Sheriff Adam Christianson as "a civilian."

Nor has the sheriff's office identified the gunman.

The shooting took place about 11 a.m. in the 2100 block of Chrysler Drive as the deputy, accompanied by the other man shot to death, were trying to serve eviction papers at the home, Christian said.

"One of my valued members of my team is dead," Christianson said at an impromptu news conference at noon. He ended it by saying, "I am overwhelmingly frustrated that we don't have the resources to protect the community."

The incident happened about 11 a.m. in the Whispering Woods development, formerly known as Prescott Estates, a development of two-story fourplex apartments.

Neighbors told Bee reporters that they heard a barrage of gunshots. One man reported seeing the body of the civilian victim being carried away and deputies carrying the body of the slain deputy.

Sacramento-based television stations began broadcasting live from the scene late in the morning and continued their coverage well into the afternoon.

Sheriff's officials maintained that they believed the gunman was still holed up in the house they had surrounded. Authorities were waiting the man out in what Christianson described as a complex, methodical procedure.

Residents of Whispering Woods were evacuated because authorities feared the gunman may have been armed with explosives. A relief center was set up at the Prescott Evangelical Church.

Authorities did not disclose what tactics they were using to coax the man out, although bean bags were fired through windows of the home at mid-day followed by tear gas.

Jittery neighbors and others who stood outside the perimeter thought they heard gunshots at various times in the afternoon, although law officials said there were none. When hard rain fell early in the afternoon, many of the people headed off although others milled around throughout the afternoon.

The enormous police presence disrupted traffic in the city's northwest sector for much of the day.

The sheriff's department promised a news conference from its Hatch Road headquarters at some point later today, although no time had been announced as of 3:30 p.m.

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UPDATE - 2:30 p.m. The standoff has entered its fourth hour. Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson, a former Stanislaus County sheriff's captain, said he arrived to check on the status of his officers working the case. He said he knew the deputy who was killed but would not disclose his name, the release of which the sheriff's department is handling.

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UPDATE - 1:30 p.m. The standoff has entered its third hour at a home in northwest Modesto where SWAT teams are trying to apprehend a man who shot and killed a sheriff's deputy and another man this morning.

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UPDATE - 12:50 p.m. A man who lives in the apartment complex where a sheriff's deputy and another person were shot to death in Modesto this morning says the victims were men.

"I heard a gunshot," said the witness, who declined to be identified. "Then I heard four gunshots. Then I heard three gunshots, then another four."

He said he watched officers remove the body of a man wearing a white T-shirt and jeans and also saw four officers carry out the body of the deputy who was killed.

Another man who asked not to be identified said he watched the deputy and the second man start to drill through a lock on the door of the home when gunfire came through the door and struck the two men.

Levi Middleton and Jennifer Diaz, who live across the street from where the shooting happened, said they also hear multiple gunshots in rapid succession. They said it sounded as if the shots were fired from a semi-automatic weapon.

Middleton and Diaz said officers first told them to stay inside, and they later were told to evacuate.

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UPDATE - 12:35 p.m. Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Anthony Bejeran said the department was not releasing whether the deputy killed was a man or a woman. He said subsequent reports on the case would be made from department headquarters, not from the scene.

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UPDATE - 12:20 p.m. A sheriff's deputy and an accompanying civilian were shot and killed Thursday morning as they tried serving an eviction notice at a residence on the city's northwest side, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

SWAT teams from Stanislaus County and neighboring Merced and San Joaquin counties along with officers from Modesto police, the California Highway Patrol and other agencies surrounded a house where the suspect was believed to have holed up.

Officers broke the homes windows with bean bag shots and then fired tear gas into the home. As of 12:25 p.m., the suspect had not emerged.

Christianson said authorities knew nothing about the suspect, although he may have had military training. The Bee was told the suspect was a Hispanic male born in 1967, about 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds.

Christianson said he did not believe the team serving the civil papers at the house returned fire.

"I am overwhelmingly frustrated that we don't have the resources to protect the community," Christianson said in closing an impromptu news conference at noon.

The incident happened about 11 a.m. in the Whispering Woods development, formerly known as Prescott Estates, a development of two-story fourplex apartments.

Traffic in northwest Modesto was severely disrupted as emergency vehicles rolled into the neighborhood. Dozens of spectators lined up along the perimeter police set up.

Believing the suspect might be armed with explosives, officers evacuated a wide area around the home where the suspect holed up. Officers went house to house, asking people to leave.

Christianson did not disclose the identities of the two people killed.

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UPDATE - 12:07 p.m. A sheriff's deputy was shot and killed and another person was killed Thursday morning as deputies tried serving an eviction notice at a residence on the city's northwest side, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

Christianson said authorities knew nothing about the suspect, although he may have had military training.

Christianson said he did not believe his officers -- there were two who went to serve the papers -- returned fire.

"I am overwhelmingly frustrated that we don't have the resources to protect the community," Christianson said in closing an impromptu news conference at noon.

The incident happened about 11 a.m. in the Whispering Woods development, formerly known as Prescott Estates, a development of two-story fourplex apartments.

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UPDATE - Noon The Stanislaus County bomb squad has arrived.

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UPDATE - 11:55 a.m. Suspect vehicle has been found near scene. Authorities are cautiously examining it.

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UPDATE - 11:53 a.m. The Merced County sheriff's SWAT team is on its way to Modesto to assist.

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UPDATE - 11:50 a.m. Suspect described as Hispanic man born in 1967, 6 foot 2 inches tall and weighing about 185 pounds.

Authorities from several agencies are converging on surrounded apartment. Bean bags were fired into the residence to break windows, and tear gas was then shot inside.

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UPDATE - 11:25 a.m. At least one deputy was reportedly shot and a second deputy was on scene when it happened. No word on the condition of either deputy.

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UPDATE - 11:21 a.m. Officers are going door to door, asking people to leave their homes in the neighborhood.

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UPDATE - 11:17 a.m. Concerned that the suspect may have explosives, authorities have broadened the area they are evacuating around the apartment where the suspect is believed to be holed up.

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Authorities have surrounded an apartment building in north Modesto where two Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies have been reportedly injured in a shooting this morning while serving an eviction notice.

Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said he did not have all the details, but confirmed a call for an officer in distress had been sent out on police radios. The call asks for all nearby police agencies to respond.

The reported incident occurred about 11 a.m. in the 2100 block of Chrysler Avenue, just west of Prescott Road and south of West Rumble Road. Police believe at least one suspect is still in one of the apartments, so they have called for an armored SWAT truck to respond to the scene.

Scroll down to view map of approximate location of shooting.