Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson no longer is a defendant in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by survivors of a locksmith killed alongside a deputy sheriff in 2012. But others in Christianson’s department remain on the hook, with a trial scheduled for August.
A lawyer representing the wife and parents of Glendon Engert said it’s common to cast a wide net when first pursuing a lawsuit, followed by streamlining as more facts are discovered.
“The sworn testimony of many witnesses who have been deposed strongly supports our federal and state case against certain county employees,” but not Christianson, said San Francisco attorney Richard Schoenberger. The Engerts also dropped the county from claims that Engert’s constitutional rights were violated, although the county must continue to defend other allegations stemming from his death.
Engert, 35, and deputy Bob Paris, 53, were felled by assault rifle bullets as they tried to serve an eviction on Chrysler Drive. The slayings sparked a lengthy standoff ending in an inferno and the suicide of gunman Jim Ferrario.
Engert’s survivors sued, saying he was owed better protection and noting two investigations finding fault with the Sheriff’s Department because of warnings about Ferrario’s instability and military-grade weapons. The county says the tragedy was Ferrario’s fault.
After Engert began trying to disable a security door lock, he paused and said he thought he heard something inside, but was directed to keep drilling, the lawsuit says, and Ferrario moments later opened fire from within.
The Modesto Bee was unable to reach Christianson or county attorneys.
It’s routine, Schoenberger said, to rule out some strategies as cases proceed toward trial. He no longer will pursue a theory based in “global policy issues,” he said, or the idea that some “overarching policy” played a prominent role in Engert’s death.
“In practical reality, nothing has changed,” Schoenberger said. “Our case has always been primarily based upon and arisen out of the conduct that directly led to Glendon Engert’s preventable death.”
Still named as defendants, in addition to the county, are a supervising lieutenant and sergeant, a deputy who was not shot and Paris’ estate. A few weeks ago, the then-new owner of the fourplex paid a $230,000 settlement and was dropped from the lawsuit.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.