Stanislaus sheriff’s personnel records sealed in wrongful-death lawsuit

07/28/2014 5:46 PM

07/28/2014 5:47 PM

Both sides in an ongoing wrongful-death lawsuit stemming from the 2012 Modesto slayings of a locksmith and deputy sheriff agree to keep under wraps the personnel records of Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department employees involved in the case.

The performance of the employees, in light of pointed warnings about the gunman’s military-grade arsenal and mental instability, is at the heart of the lawsuit brought by the locksmith’s survivors against the county, the deputies who were ambushed and their superiors.

Attorneys for all parties last week signed a court document agreeing that a judge should seal personnel records because they are “confidential, sensitive or potentially invasive of an individual’s privacy interests.” They include records related to discipline, citizen complaints, charges of misconduct, hiring and firing, job performance evaluations, internal affairs investigations and even commendations and awards, the document says.

Deputy Bob Paris, 53, and locksmith Glendon Engert, 35, were killed by assault rifle bullets fired from inside a Chrysler Drive fourplex during a foreclosure eviction. The shooting sparked an overnight standoff with authorities, ending in an inferno and gunman Jim Ferrario’s suicide.

Two investigations found fault with the deputies and department administrators for failing to take proper precautions. Engert’s widow and parents say he was owed better protection; a trial date is scheduled for August 2015 in federal court in Fresno.

The “stipulated protective order” specifically prohibits sharing records with news reporters and would hide such records from public view even after the trial.

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