Sheriff's Department managers knew about a deputy's slack approach to evictions but did nothing before he and a civilian were murdered in an April ambush, an in-depth report says.
Deputy Bob Paris and his supervising sergeant failed in their "obligation to create an effective and safe operational plan" based on specific warnings of danger at a Chrysler Drive fourplex in Modesto, the report says. Faced with a multitude of red flags, the ill-fated eviction "should have been rescheduled," the document says.
The report, commissioned and released by Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, contradicts his statements after the tragedy that Paris and his partner, Mike Glinskas, had no idea that danger lurked inside.
The gunman, upset at being evicted, repeatedly apologized in a 911 call 8½ hours into an ensuing standoff with SWAT officers, saying, "I thought it was a burglar and I shot," the new report says. He also offered to come out if authorities would deliver a pizza.
Instead, Jim Ferrario, 45, busted through interior walls and apparently started a fire in a neighbor's unit. The fourplex burned about 11 hours after the slayings, independent investigators found.
An autopsy revealed long ago that Ferrario committed suicide. The new 122-page report says he suffered injuries when a tear-gas canister or flash-bang device struck him in the abdomen and knee, and he shot himself in the stomach before killing himself with a bullet to the head.
His body was found in a bathtub "bunker" surrounded by 30 guns, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and other gear such as a gas mask.
No background check
Authorities might have been more cautious had they done a background check that would have turned up Ferrario's felony conviction for receiving stolen property, multiple other arrests and involvement in at least 13 police reports from 1997 to 2008, the document says.
Despite the conviction, he legally obtained guns and a state-issued security guard license with related firearm permit by having the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor, the report says.
Neighbors were alarmed at Ferrario's bizarre behavior. He would emerge at night carrying a rifle with handguns holstered to each hip, apparently protecting his property, but they never reported concerns to police, the document says.
Sheriff's supervisors concerned about "recent administrative failures" put Paris, 53, and others through a training session on the very morning that Paris and locksmith Glendon Engert, 35, were slain, the report says.
A "complacency problem" among some at the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department might have factored in a failure to do a background check that would have uncovered the killer's criminal record and history of firearms ownership, the document says.
"The deputies and sergeant did not effectively react to the verbal and written warnings," the report says. Officers serving evictions "were not trained in a systematic manner" and should receive the same level as patrol deputies, the report says, plus more for potentially dangerous searches.
The much anticipated report, released Friday night, notes the victims' "noble actions" and places blame squarely on the distraught and paranoid gunman. The report also reminds readers that "Paris made the ultimate sacrifice" and that split-second law enforcement decisions are easy to second-guess.
For the first time, the document uncovers supervisors' "concerns with Paris' behavior" during evictions that were noted but apparently dismissed.
When asked if he understood training material a few short hours before he was killed, Paris reportedly quipped, "Clear as mud." The day before, a clerk alerted him to specific warnings regarding Ferrario, including military-grade weapons, the document says, and Paris replied, "Whatever."
During previous evictions, more than one department employee working with Paris had observed him whistling, talking on a cell phone and searching with hands in pockets. Others said he sometimes failed to draw his weapon or put his cell phone on silent when searching buildings, and he would move too quickly and ignore small rooms and closets.
Paris was known to leave dispatchers unaware of his location. When confronted, he once said, "Why? Nothing ever happens," the report says.
Co-workers and supervisors described his attitude "toward safety and supervision" as sometimes "disrespectful or negative," says the report, done by two nationally recognized experts from Southern California.
Conflict within the department's civil services division, which includes process serving such as evictions, might have contributed to "events before and during" the ambush, the report says. "Blame and finger-pointing" were evident on all levels deputy, sergeant, lieutenant and captain and independent investigators found it "difficult to determine who was right and who was wrong," the document says.
A sergeant supervising Paris shared concerns about Paris with his lieutenant, but the deputy's "performance deficiencies were not documented and no action plan was developed" to help Paris improve, the report says.
Investigators also found disturbing perceptions in the Sheriff's Department that serving evictions "is not real cop work" and the civil division is "a dumping ground for underperforming personnel" and considered a "retirement center."
The document appears to support many details that emerged less than two weeks ago in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Engert's widow, Irina Engert. For example, Paris and Glinskas were warned that Ferrario had "multiple guns," specifically an M-16 assault rifle, and security cameras and that he might be "delusional."
Also, the report and lawsuit agree that Engert paused while trying to drill the lock to a heavy security door, saying he heard a noise, shortly before shots were fired from inside. The report does not say deputies directed him to continue drilling, as claimed in the lawsuit.
The "critical incident review" adds compelling warnings in quotes attributed to an eviction agent, who reportedly asked a department clerk, "Are you writing this down?" He told the clerk:
"You need to tell these people that he's been seen with M16s and other guns."
"I know I told you guys this stuff before; this is serious."
"There's a possibility that he has bombs in that house." (Ferrario didn't; "only a few packages of M80 fireworks were found," the report says.)
The Bee and Irina Engert's lawsuit have identified the eviction agent as Paul Tunison, who owns a Modesto eviction business and was hired by the new property owner after Ferrario lost the unit to foreclosure.
Some of a clerk's written warnings survived the fire and photographs of the forms appear in the report.
"Considering the totality of information written warnings regarding Ferrario, the presence of security cameras, the noise (from within) and the locksmith's belief that someone was inside the deputies should have stopped and relocated everyone to a position of advantage," the report concludes.
Paris and Glinskas might have reconsidered their approach had either phoned Tunison after learning of his warnings, the report says.
Investigators determined that Paris' bulletproof vest was outdated "both a system and personal failure" and stood no chance against the high-powered assault rifle. But even newer models would not have stopped 7.62-caliber rounds, the report says; Ferrario fired at least 12.
Authorities should look into new "Dragon Skin" body armor recently developed by a Fresno company that claims to withstand such rounds, the report suggests.
Investigators made several training recommendations, some of which already have been implemented.
They noted that a glut of patrols cars responding to the crisis unwisely blocked a street; some 200 officers from various agencies responded to help. The report also took issue with a command post, saying it was too close and that some people there weren't wearing protective vests.
A dispatcher "did not recognize the unit involved" when Glinskas called for help, "creating additional confusion and stress," the report says, although Modesto police arrived shortly.
The report also noted that a distracting media helicopter refused to leave.
Deputies must make sure, when "aware of threats," that civilians aren't unduly exposed, investigators said. "No evidence was discovered that (Tunison's) warnings on eviction paperwork were discussed with locksmith Engert," the report says.
Investigators complimented police for tracking down Ferrario's mother at her friend's home near San Francisco 12 hours after the shootings, although she did not identify his recorded voice and by that time he already was dead.
Ferrario was divorced and had a daughter, the report says. His paranoia may have increased after someone apparently tried to steal his SUV, although that incident was not reported to police, the document says.
As previously reported by The Bee, Ferrario once attacked a neighbor with bear mace. He also brandished a laser-guided Taser and threatened another with a "firefight," the critical incident review says.
The report commends police and sheriff's officers for "valor in law enforcement's highest traditions" while extracting the two bodies during the standoff.
The report lists many changes implemented since the tragedy. For example, deputies doing evictions now have computers in their vehicles, like regular patrol cars, and carry ballistic shields.
They also get more training, although "building approach, entry and search training" specific to process serving still is being developed.
Also, pre-eviction notices are vague on the date and time that deputies might show up, lessening the potential that a homeowner would lie in wait.
The report contains some discrepancies. For example, Ferrario's age, previously reported as 45 years, appeared on one page and mistakenly as 32 on another. Also, one section says Engert resumed drilling after the pause for 15 seconds before Ferrario opened fire; another says shots rang out 30 seconds after he resumed.
Investigators commended Christianson for launching a statewide survey of process serving practices and will coordinate findings with the California State Sheriff's Association, the report says. Christianson is second vice president of that group and hosted an October event.
The investigators said "he was extremely clear in his direction to identify all lessons learned and determine what changes are necessary."
In an email Thursday, Christianson called the shootings a "terrible, heart wrenching tragedy that's very personal for me."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.