January 29, 2013

Stanislaus County withholds Chrysler standoff report

Results of an investigation in the April murders of a deputy sheriff and locksmith are not likely to be released Friday as promised by Sheriff Adam Christianson since May.

Results of an investigation of the April murders of a Stanislaus County deputy and a locksmith are not likely to be released Friday as promised by Sheriff Adam Christianson since May, and may never become public.

"I have reservations about releasing it at all," said Stanislaus County Counsel John Doering on Tuesday in light of a wrongful-death lawsuit filed last week by the locksmith's widow.

The report has been widely anticipated, including by law enforcement hoping for tips to avoid ambushes.

Deputy Bob Paris, 53, and locksmith Glendon Engert, 35, were shot and killed the morning of April 22 while serving an eviction at a fourplex on Chrysler Drive in northwest Modesto. Distraught homeowner Jim Ferrario, 45, fired an assault rifle from inside as Engert was disabling the lock on a security door, reports say.

The slayings set off an 11-hour standoff that ended with the fourplex burning to the ground; the cause of fire was not determined, Christianson has said. Ferrario committed suicide surrounded by a cache of weapons, ammunition and survival equipment, an investigation found.

"Given the fact that we've just been sued by the Engert family, I'm reluctant to have any report released at this time," Doering said.

He referred to a lawsuit filed in federal court by Irina Engert claiming that the department received specific warnings about Ferrario's paranoia, security cameras and military-grade weapons, and that Paris and another deputy apparently ignored them.

Christianson refused to comment Tuesday.

He will follow through with plans to privately brief employees and other law enforcement, firefighting and ambulance workers in three-hour presentations scheduled for today, Thursday and Friday, Doering said.

The sheriff has said the report would focus on lessons learned, not assigning blame. Doering said he directed Christianson to continue with plans for the private briefings.

The independent "critical incident review" by law enforcement consultants, expected to cost up to $60,000, was commissioned by the sheriff in May and approved by county supervisors in June. It also covers the death of crime scene technician Mary Donahou, who was struck near dawn Dec. 30, 2011, by a vehicle while investigating a shooting in Hughson.

Christianson in October affirmed that the report would be made public by the end of 2012 and restated the promise in November. In late December, he said the report's complexity would push the unveiling to Friday.

At that time, the sheriff said, "Feb. 1; I'm giving you a date definitive." He said he would brief safety personnel, "and then I will send it out electronically to you and anybody else who wants it, on Feb. 1."

The sheriff "did not consult with county counsel on that," Doering said Tuesday. His office is discussing the matter with outside attorneys. Doering hopes to have a decision by the end of the week but stressed that he's making no promises.

"Our job is to protect the county, not just the sheriff," Doering said.

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

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