Gunman in Modesto standoff 'prepared for confrontation'

04/14/2012 4:54 PM

04/14/2012 10:33 PM

Weapons found in Modesto apartment suggest gunman was prepared to fight it out

Investigators on Saturday said they found evidence that suggests the gunman who shot and killed a sheriff's deputy and a locksmith Thursday was prepared for an armed confrontation with police at his north Modesto apartment.

Police Sgt. Brian Findlen said the body of a man believed to be the murder suspect, found in the charred ruins of the fourplex, has been removed from the scene. Investigators found near the man's body numerous weapons and equipment, including a high-powered assault rifle, ammunition, a gas mask and police-style radios.

Findlen said the gunman was wearing a ballistic vest, which strongly suggests that the man barricaded himself in the apartment and "was preparing himself for an armed confrontation with police."

Two deputies arrived at the home with a locksmith Thursday morning to carry out an eviction when the shots were fired. The building caught fire late Thursday night after an 11-hour standoff between the gunman and police.

Investigators have not identified the body and were not releasing the name of the person they believe killed deputy Bob Paris, 53, and locksmith Glendon Engert, 35. A second deputy was uninjured.

Court documents indicate that 45-year-old James Ferrario was the person being evicted. Neighbors and family members described him as an ant-social, paranoid and sometimes strange man.

Findlen said it's possible investigators will use DNA analysis to identify the body, which could take weeks, if not months.

Authorities said they were certain the gunman was alive Thursday night because someone was turning the lights off and on as SWAT teams launched tear gas into the apartment. Findlen said investigators have not ruled out the possibility the gunman committed suicide in the latter moments of the standoff, but the cause of death had not been determined.

The investigators continued to sift through debris of the burned apartment building Saturday as neighbors tried to regain some sense of normalcy.

Police allowed neighbors who were evacuated to return home late Friday. Most of the 2100 block of Chrysler Drive, just west of Prescott Road, remained closed to traffic.

The investigation at the scene is focused on the burned building, and agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched for evidence.

Findlen said only the residents of the four Whispering Woods apartments affected by the fire remained displaced Saturday. Red Cross officials were helping them find temporary places to stay.

Robert Lazo, 25, said he was allowed back into his apartment about 11:30 a.m. Friday under the condition he would not leave. He stood outside Saturday and looked at the street, clogged with police vehicles and investigators.

"It's kind of disruptive," said Lazo, who has lived there since November 2010. "We're all just trying to get back to our daily routine."

A group of people announced on Facebook they are organizing a peaceful march Monday in downtown Modesto to show support for law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. Organizers posted that they plan to meet at 2 p.m. at 1010 10th St.

Modesto police ask anyone with information about Thursday's incident to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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