Delay of Modesto standoff report brings questions amid a mother's tears
Jan 31, 2013 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Anne Engert remembers her grandmother's enduring grief at having to bury a child several decades earlier.
"All of my life, I've been aware of this kind of pain. I could see the pain come into her eyes and into her voice, as fresh as the day it happened, 60 years later," said Engert, who also lost a son last year in one of Modesto's most notorious suicide-murders.
The horrific scene April 12 captivated people throughout Modesto and beyond: a deranged gunman holed up in a home he no longer owned; two bodies on the lawn; a SWAT team ready to pounce far into the night, with media cameras rolling; a late-night inferno, and another body amid the ashes.
One of the innocent dead was Engert's 35-year-old son.
"For the rest of my life," she said with measured words, trying to contain emotion, "I have to see the world through this pain."
Many had hoped that an in-depth, independent investigation would help make sense of the Chrysler Drive shootings -- for the community, for public safety workers and for the families of the victims, Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy Bob Paris and locksmith Glendon Engert.
That was the idea behind Sheriff Adam Christianson's promise, repeated time and again for eight months, to share results with everyone. It's about accountability, lessons learned and improved safety, he said, pledging that a Feb. 1 public release date -- Friday -- was cast in stone.
But a higher legal authority, County Counsel John Doering, pulled the plug Tuesday. He pointed to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed last week by Glendon Engert's widow and said the report would remain hidden from public view, although lengthy private briefings for public safety workers began Wednesday.
"I'm disappointed to hear it's delayed," Anne Engert said Wednesday, "and I can't help but wonder why."
Families kept in the dark
Before the postponement, Engert was curious as to why the Sheriff's Department had not extended the courtesy of sharing with her and her husband results of the probe. The 53-year-old slain deputy's family hadn't been briefed, either, said Robert Paris Sr. of Lodi.
Christianson on Tuesday refused to say why the victims' families weren't drawn in.
Like her daughter-in-law, Irina, Engert consulted an attorney after her son was gunned down while trying to disable a lock as deputies watched. Because her son was an innocent victim, she wanted to explore options, she said, but found that only his wife had legal standing to sue.
"The state of California does not recognize my loss as legally actionable," so it's up to his wife, Anne Engert said. "I certainly support her in her decisions."
Irina Engert was the one who delivered the awful news, on the phone from a hospital.
Glendon Engert, trying to make a living as a locksmith after losing a surveying job in the economic slump, had been called to a Modesto fourplex with a unit going through foreclosure. The new property owner knew that the distraught man being evicted could be dangerous but didn't tell the locksmith, according to his widow's lawsuit.
Two deputies serving the eviction had been warned that Jim Ferrario had multiple military-grade weapons and security cameras and could be paranoid, and apparently took inadequate safety precautions, the lawsuit says.
Ferrario, 45, fired shots from inside with an assault rifle, killing Paris and Engert. Deputy Mike Glinskas was not hit and was honored for bravery in August. The murders set off an 11-hour standoff that ended with the fourplex burning to the ground; the fire's cause was not determined, Christianson has said, and the unit is being rebuilt.
"It's unbelievable that something like that could happen to someone who wished so little bad for anyone else, who looked for good in other people," Anne Engert said of her son, whom she described as kind and gentle.
"He never had a harsh word for anybody. He was always uncomplaining, even when things were difficult. He was a loving and caring person."
'Lively and bright'
Glendon Engert was born in Missouri and came to Oakdale with his family at age 9. Anne Engert home-schooled him and his younger brother, spending a lot of family time together, even in their teen years.
Glendon was "lively and bright," learning to read at 3. He "was a joy to have; he was the kind of child that made me happy to be a mother," she said.
Fourteen years ago, he married Irina, a former foreign-exchange student from Russia. He searched for deals so they could travel to many continents "on the cheap," his mother said, and they attended a Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Modesto. They did not have children.
Mother and son, night owls by nature, remained close in his adulthood, playing online poker and chatting on the phone into the wee hours of the morning. In April, he called her at 1 a.m. and they hung up at 5, she said.
Four days later, she was viewing his body and saying goodbye.
"It's very hard to see your child lying dead," she said. "There aren't any real words to express that."
Tributes in many forms are appreciated, she said, from a flag presented by the American Legion to an original modestonews.org song by Mick Rubalcava, to U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham reading praise into the Congressional Record. Online gamers the globe over sent moving words of condolence for a man they knew as "G-force" and respected greatly.
"They say character isn't what you do for yourself; it's what you do for others. Glendon had the best character of anyone I know," wrote a "former colonel of immortals" from Louisiana in a Bee online guestbook.
"He was a very humble man who never tried to make himself stand out, but he had a large footprint nevertheless," his mother said.
Robert Paris Sr. said his son, the deputy, was a man of "very good character, very good qualities."
People have said he was well-liked and an avid sportsman. Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris attended his funeral.
It would be nice if other lives are spared from lessons learned in the report, Anne Engert said. Otherwise, she said, "No amount of responsibility assigning is going to bring Glendon back."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.
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