Cop Gets A Medal For Living; Too Bad About the Locksmith

Two Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies were there to effect an eviction. Not exactly the sexiest duty around for the most part, but this one was a bit different.

“(Deputies) knew — and I mean they knew — the house was occupied by someone reported to have a cache of assault rifles, to be militaristic and to be unstable, with surveillance cameras, and nobody let (Engert) in on the secret,” San Francisco attorney Richard Schoenberger said Friday.

The phrases “Be very cautious” and “Is going to have problems” were noted next to the address on an eviction form given to the officers, the document says, and surviving deputy Mike Glinskas later confirmed in a Modesto police interview that the warnings were highlighted in red.

The deputies knew that evicting Jim Richard Ferrario might be difficult, and dangerous, but they had a job to do. That job required the help of a locksmith, and they got 35-year-old Glendon Engert to do the job.  Nobody bothered to tell the locksmith, the guy in front of the door, that there was any chance of danger.

But deputies took no special precautions and essentially “placed (Engert) in a ‘vertical coffin,’ ” the document reads, citing police jargon for doorways, where officers are most vulnerable when clearing a home.

Engert began disabling the lock to a heavy metal security door and paused at sounds inside, telling deputies, “I think someone’s in there,” the lawsuit says. Instead of having him retreat, they directed him to continue drilling the lock, and assault rifle bullets fired from inside pierced the door about 15 seconds after, the lawsuit says.

Deputy Bob Paris was shot in the head. Engert made it a few steps before he went down. Two dead on an eviction call.  While the death of Deputy Paris is a tragedy, it’s one that’s subsumed in the nature of the job, a risk that every cop knowingly undertakes.  More importantly, he knew that this was a dangerous job going in.

Glendon Engert had no clue.  He was a locksmith, not a law enforcement officer. When he went to work in the morning, he wasn’t afraid of not making it home for dinner. The job of locksmith doesn’t carry with it the inherent risk of death. 

Even so, there was a chance to minimize the risk when Engert heard sounds emanating from inside the unit.  Nobody is happy to be evicted, and regardless of whether they have a cache of guns or an unstable disposition, the locksmith isn’t there to argue. He just does locks.

Engert’s widow is suing the Stanislaus Sheriff’s office for his death.

Irina Engert filed a claim against the county in September; it was rejected last week. Her attorney, Schoenberger, said: “We didn’t take the decision (to sue) lightly. This has been a horrific experience for her, and she knows that bringing a lawsuit shines light on her wounds even more. We have done so soberly, with an eye toward doing justice for her.”

As the County rejected the claim, and thus liability for her husband’s death, the case goes to suit.  But it’s not like the County wasn’t paying attention to what happened that day, in the hallway where one deputy and one locksmith died.

The other deputy present, Mike Glinskas, escaped harm. The story told was a bit different.

On April 12, 2012 shortly before 11 a.m., Paris, Glinskas and Engert went to the front door of an apartment at 2141 Chrysler Drive in Modesto to serve an eviction. They knocked on the door and didn’t hear a response when suddenly the resident, Jim Ferrario, fired shots from a high-powered rifle through a security screen door, hitting Paris and Engert.

Glinskas was able to take cover, return fire on the [sic] on Ferrario and radio for help. He was pinned down and unable to get to Engert and Paris, but was able to “broadcast vital and critical information to responding law enforcement personnel.”

So the locksmith was killed and Deputy Glinkas took cover and “broadcast vital and critical information.”  When you see language like that, as if calling in the shooting of his fellow deputy and some locksmith was an act of either brilliant or bravery, the upshot is clear.  Deputy Glinskas was

awarded the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office Medal of Valor for his courage.

Deputy Mike Glinskas received the medal on Tuesday for his efforts during the deadly standoff earlier this year that took the lives of Deputy Robert “Bob” Paris and locksmith Glendon Engert.

It’s not such a terrible thing that the deputy got a medal for surviving. Cops get medals for less, and sometimes for things that would get a citizen imprisoned, so there is no reason to begrudge the deputy a medal of valor.

But this was a killing field waiting to happen, and it appears the deputies had no qualms about putting Engert in the middle of it, without the slightest clue that April 12, 2012 might be his last day on earth.  If they’ve got the time and interest to award medals to heros for doing their job, it hardly seems too much to ask that the County demonstrate a modicum of concern for the widow of the locksmith they put in harm’s way.

And if the County really wants to gain something useful from this tragedy of incompetent policing, that ended in a dead deputy, whose life is no doubt valued far higher than that of the poor, lowly locksmith, then maybe it should focus on training its deputies how not to die rather than giving medals for hiding and calling in the shooting..

H/T FritzMuffKnuckle

9 comments on “Cop Gets A Medal For Living; Too Bad About the Locksmith

  1. Dr. Sigmund Droid

    Wow!! What a sad story all around . . .

    But please tell me, exactly, how did the cops think it was gonna go down any different than it did, even for themselves; I mean one of them died too?? . . .

    From the limited facts supplied, I’m not even sure that the resident, if he were still alive, would be guilty of murder; it sounds possibly like plausible self-defense . . .

    If someone starts picking the lock on my metal security door unannounced and, after hearing me inside my house, continues to do so while my family and I are in there, bad stuff is probably going to ensue, isn’t it (mind you, I don’t own, and never have owned guns, but still)?? . . .

  2. SHG

    I don’t have an answer as to the best way for the deputies to have handled the situation. I do, however, think that putting a locksmith in the line of fire in a dangerous situation, and ordering him to continue even after hearing someone inside, isn’t the answer. The police are in charge of their own fate. The locksmith shouldn’t die for their mistakes.

  3. John Burgess

    I’m a little confused by the story.

    How do we know what the locksmith told deputies (“There’s someone in there”)? It’s not in the surviving deputy’s quoted statement. The locksmith didn’t get a chance (as best I can tell) to make a statement.

    Is this coming from the shooter?

  4. Shawn McManus

    The shooter committed suicide and burned down the place.

    A few comments in general:
    The locksmith had the ability to leave at any time. The cops could have given him a hard time for it but he wasn’t being held there at gunpoint. That said, I can understand the reasons why he continued.

    “Assault rifle bullets” are the same bullets as “any old rifle bullets.” I think the term is “sensationalism” to describe the phrase.

    If the shooter did have an M-16 or other “military grade weapons” and this was known, then the ATF should have been brought to collect them. They would have had their own locksmith equipment, too.

  5. SHG

    You underestimate the nature of submission to the shield. When a cop tells someone to do something, even though he may not have the authority to do so, people comply. Secondarily, the locksmith thinks the cops know what they’re doing. Yes, big mistake, but common. Is he wrong to rely and follow orders? Does that make it his fault?

    As for the hype about the rifle and bullets, who cares. It’s nonsense.

  6. LTMC

    One of the more frustrating things about this story is how it represents the misplaced priorities of our nation’s law enforcement officials. It is pretty much standard practice now for local police departments to use SWAT teams to serve narcotics search warrants. In the vast majority of cases, it’s totally inappropriate, and introduces an unnecessary and risky degree of lethality into an already stressful situation.

    In this case, we appear to have one of those rare cases where a SWAT team was clearly warranted. They knew the homeowner was dangerous. They knew he owned a cache of guns and had a touch of the crazy. But apparently, because he’s not an insidious a pot dealer trying to smoke our babies up, they just walk right up to the front door without a care in the world. Incredible.

  7. Onlooker

    Pretty much my thoughts when I read this. Incredible overreaction and use of force in some situations, and yet not a care in the world when it’s known that the guy was armed to the teeth and quite probably dangerous, in this situation.


  8. Larry Coughenour

    I am a locksmith with forty years experience. I have been involved in hundreds of evictions over the years. There have been many times that I was squatting beside the door picking the lock open for the local sheriffs deputies because I always was mindful of the possibility of just this happening.
    I was at a particular eviction one day when the deputy knocked on the door with no answer. I was asked to begin unlocking the door when I saw the occupant at the window. The deputy told occupant to open the door, but he refused. The realtor and I were asked to drive a block away and wait to be called before returning. Back-up was called and eventually the door was kicked open and after occupant was subdued, handcuffed and hauled away we were called to return to complete our work. There was a rifle laying on a couch just inside the door when I went in to rekey the locks. There is no telling what tragedy could have happened that day! They are out here walking around with us!

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