January 31, 2013

Edited copy of Modesto ambush report may be released

Stanislaus County's top lawyer on Thursday afternoon said he may release a redacted copy of an investigation in the deadly April ambush of a deputy sheriff and a locksmith, but would not say when.

Stanislaus County's top lawyer on Thursday said he may release a redacted copy of investigation results in the deadly April ambush of a deputy sheriff and a locksmith, but would not say when.

"We're trying to do our best to assist the sheriff in meeting his intended obligation and promise," said County Counsel John Doering.

He referred to Sheriff Adam Christianson's pledge, repeated since May, to publicly share results of the independent probe. Those anticipating its release include the victims' survivors and law enforcement officials hoping for insight on avoiding tragedies.

Outside law enforcement experts from Southern California are being paid as much as $60,000 to analyze the April 12 shootings at a fourplex on Modesto's Chrysler Drive.

Foreclosed homeowner Jim Ferrario fired an assault rifle from inside the unit from which he was about to be evicted, killing deputy Bob Paris, 53, and locksmith Glendon Engert, 35. An ensuing 11-hour standoff ended with the dwelling consumed by flames and the gunman's suicide.

Christianson's plan to unveil the "critical incident review" this week was pre-emptively blocked Tuesday by Doering, who blamed a wrongful death lawsuit filed last week by the locksmith's widow.

"I'm reviewing (the report) right now to make sure any materials that are not appropriate for release are either redacted or omitted," Doering said Thursday. Such information might include details that violate the Police Officers Bill of Rights, he said.

The report also covers the December 2011 death of crime scene technician Mary Donahou, who was struck by a vehicle while investigating a Hughson shooting.

Christianson said in an email Thursday: "I made a commitment and I stand by it. I told (The Bee) and the community exactly why I wanted to commission the report."

The sheriff continued, "(But) I have a duty, obligation and responsibility to mitigate risk/liability in partnership with county counsel, the Board of Supervisors, the chief executive officer" and others.

Consultants with slide-show presentations began briefing Sheriff's Department employees Wednesday, with sessions scheduled to conclude today.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or (209) 578-2390.

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