FRESNO, Calif. (CN) - A widow's husband was killed because the sheriff sent him to drill open the door of a heavily armed, deranged man, who shot him to death during a forcible eviction, the widow claims in court.
Irina Engert sued Stanislaus County, Sheriff Adam Christianson, three of his officers, and RT Financial, the owner of the apartment where Jim Ferrario, 45, lived.
Engert's husband, Glendon, was shot to death on April 12, 2012, by Ferrario, who "had been subject to foreclosure proceedings since January 2012," according to the federal complaint.
The complaint states: "On April 12, 2012, the Stanislaus Sheriffs' Office sent a young civilian locksmith, Glendon Engert, into a situation the sheriffs knew was dangerous and life-threatening. Mr. Engert was hired to accompany two sheriffs deputies to assist in an eviction by drilling open the door lock of a residence inhabited by a man known to sheriffs as being mentally disordered, who possessed a cache of weapons, including high-powered automatic military-style rifles, and who had military training, with surveillance cameras mounted inside and outside the residence, who had threatened others in the past, and who was a clear and present danger to himself and anyone who approached him. The sheriffs, as well as the property owner, gave no warning to Mr. Engert about the danger in which they were placing him, did nothing to protect him, and failed to take alternative measures that could have kept him out of harm's way."
Sheriff's officers had repeatedly been warned that Ferrario was dangerous, and repeatedly warned one another of it, but never warned her husband, Engert says: "He was given absolutely no information about the danger awaiting him at the Ferrario residence."
As her husband drilled the door lock, he heard noises and told the two deputies with him that he thought someone was inside. The deputies told him to keep drilling, his wife says.
"Approximately 15 seconds later Ferrario fired several shots from inside the residence through the front security screen door with a high-powered fully automatic military-type rifle," the widow says in her complaint. One deputy was hit in the head and died. Engert collapsed from gunshot wounds as he tried to run.
After a standoff with police that lasted for hours, Ferrario killed himself. Police reports show that the sheriff's office knew Ferrario was heavily armed and mentally unstable, the widow says.
The complaint states: "Just after the shooting of Mr. Engert and Deputy Paris, the police quickly became informed of the following, according to the Police Report:
"'[Ferrario] was considered armed and dangerous [,and] was said to have grenades/explosives, military training, armor piercing ammunition, multiple firearms, automatic assault weapons, a high-powered scoped rifle, body armor, gas mask, scanner, helmet, stockpiles of ammunitions, and a fortified cinder block bunker in his residence ... His mental condition was unclear. Intel revealed he was delusional, possibly suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder. Due to the above information, responding personnel were advised to use extreme caution.'
"The rapidity with which this information was garnered and broadcast further demonstrates law enforcement's absolute knowledge of the extreme danger presented by Ferrario prior to the eviction process." (Brackets in complaint.)
Ferrario had stockpiled 22 guns, 17 of them rifles or shotguns, including an M16 and SKS assault rifles, 500 rounds of ammunition, some of them armor-piercing, and had set up several surveillance cameras inside and outside the house, some of which were visible to deputies.
Irina Engert seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence, civil rights violations, and municipal liability.
She is represented by Richard Schoenberger with Walkup, Melodia & Schoenberger, in San Francisco.