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..