JARDINE: A final goodbye to one of their own

04/19/2012 12:54 PM

04/21/2012 2:33 PM

They paid tribute to Robert Paris on Friday.

The stories they told about him. The laughter and the tears. The hundreds of uniformed law enforcement officials who came from as far away as Chicago, Portland, Ore., Nevada and San Diego.

The Modesto streets lined with people — some carrying American flags — who watched the procession of patrol cars, limousines, motorcycles and, of course, a hearse roll by from north Modesto's Big Valley Grace Community Church to Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson.

Paris, a 53-year-old Stanislaus County Sheriff's deputy, died along with locksmith 35-year-old Glendon Engert as they tried to evict a man from an apartment in northwest Modesto on April 12.

The resident, a deranged 45-year-old who was heavily armed and wore body armor, shot both men to death. Eleven hours later, he killed himself.

Make sense of it all? How could you? Nothing could explain or justify anything about such senseless murders by a man Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson called a "coward."

Engert's service will be today. Paris, meanwhile, received the traditional law enforcement funeral, complete with processions, the military-style protocol and the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. All of that reminded us he was a deputy, one who loved his job.

His family members and friends, though, made him real and tangible. They brought him back to life, even to those who barely knew him or never met him. They focused not on how he died, but how he lived.

In a 90-minute service attended by, among others, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, Paris was remembered as the older brother who would show up at kid brother Eric's elementary school, tell the principal Eric had a doctor's appointment and then take him fishing.

Or how Paris and his friends would let Eric tag along with them on bird-hunting trips, sending him out to fetch the birds they shot.

Yes, Eric told those in the packed Big Valley Grace sanctuary, they let him be their bird dog.

"But I got to hang out with the big guys," he said.

Longtime friend Jeff Mason described Paris' neatness, and how he kept the perfect closet of clothing — T-shirts, shirts and pants.

"All pressed and each hanger a half-inch apart," Mason said. "Most dudes are not like that."

When they were paramedics, Mason added, Paris even pressed his jumpsuit.

Virtually all of the speakers talked of Paris' love for hunting and fishing, trips into the Emigrant Wilderness, to Northern California, Colorado and how he'd sock away vacation time so that he could work as a hunting guide in Montana every year.

And for that hour-and-a-half, it seemed as if Paris might have been in the room laughing at the stories himself.

Then, the service ended and the procession began, patrol car lights flashing as it eventually went on Briggsmore Avenue to Claus Road, south to Yosemite Avenue and into Empire, then southeast on Sante Fe to the cemetery. Modestans said their farewells as the motorcade passed by.

At the cemetery, trains broke the silence as Paris' family arrived. Officers from the various departments established their formations and the equestrian unit rode in with the symbolic riderless horse, an empty boot in the stirrup of an empty saddle.

The Peace Officers' Memorial area of the park includes a clientele that has grown frighteningly from line-of-duty deaths in recent years: Ceres police Sgt. Howie Stevenson in 2005. California Highway Patrol Officer Earl Scott in 2006. Modesto police Sgt. Steve May in 2009, from injuries suffered during a 2002 crash while on duty. Sheriff's crime scene technician Mary Donahou, killed in December when she was hit by a car while investigating a shooting in Hughson.

With the fallen officers' monument to which Paris' name will soon be added serving as a backdrop, officers folded the flag that had draped his casket. "Taps" played by a pair of buglers and a flyover by eight helicopters added to the solemnity.

Christianson presented the flag to Paris' daughter, Jami. He also gave flags to Paris' son, Bobby, and mother, Jane.

Then, it was over.

A crisp salute. A final tribute. A goodbye.

The service for Glendon Enbert will be at 2 p.m. today at the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah's Witnesses on Claus Road.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383.


Video: Procession for Deputy Robert Paris

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