MODESTO — The public should see the report done by an outside expert and paid for with taxpayer dollars into what should be learned from April's tragic shooting deaths of a Modesto locksmith and a longtime deputy sheriff.
The person directly responsible for the deaths is Jim Ferrario, who committed suicide after killing the two men who were at his door with eviction papers.
But there were and still are questions about whether the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department had information that would suggest that Ferrario had multiple guns, was unpredictable and could present a danger. Most important, the report identifies ways that the Sheriff's Department changed its policies and practices to try to prevent another such incident in what is, unfortunately, a regular occurrence in our community evicting people from their homes.
Since he announced in May that he was hiring an outside investigator to do a "critical incident review," Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson repeatedly has promised that the report would be made public.
Now County Counsel John Doering, the county's top legal expert, is reluctant to release it, in large part because of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of locksmith Glendon Engert. The lawsuit alleges that deputies put Engert in the line of fire and suggests his death could have been avoided.
The county will have to defend itself against the allegations, but we doubt there's anything in this report that the plaintiff's attorneys don't know or haven't or can't get their hands on. It is likely the report will be used if this civil case gets to trial.
The county's liability is what it is, based on what occurred leading up to the April 22 shootings. Public release of an after-the-fact review won't increase or reduce that.
This is not a situation where there's an unsolved crime and an ongoing criminal investigation. This was a review of policies, procedures and performance in an assignment that ended so tragically.
Law enforcement officers who are killed in the line of duty are almost canonized in the days and weeks after their death. First responders and public safety personnel deserve our respect and appreciation for the dangerous work that they do. But that respect should not preclude an honest evaluation of what led to a deadly outcome.
Christianson previously has said that other law enforcement agencies want to see this report, with the hope of improving the way they handle evictions. That is the most important element of this review.
Although he was very close to deputy Bob Paris, the sheriff was smart to initiate this outside review and to look for ways to prevent such incidents. The public should see the conclusions as well. We urge the county counsel to release the report.