MODESTO (AP) — Police investigating the death of a man suspected of gunning down a California sheriff’s deputy and a civilian say they’ve found equipment indicating he was preparing for an armed confrontation: a ballistic vest, a gas mask and several weapons including a high-powered assault rifle.
The man’s body was found in the burnt ruins of an apartment building following a fiery standoff with law officers.
The fatal shooting Thursday morning of the deputy and a locksmith during an eviction led to a day-long standoff that ended when the four-unit apartment building caught fire. On Friday, authorities recovered a badly burned body that has not been positively identified. But they said the male is the suspect in the slayings.
The weapons were found close to the suspect’s body along with police-style radios, police said Satursday.
“Investigators also found that the man was wearing a ballistic vest which strongly suggests that the man barricaded himself in the apartment and was preparing himself for an armed confrontation with police,” said Modesto police spokesman Sgt. Brian Findlen.
The former security guard whose apartment was the scene of the shootings was a financially troubled, paranoid recluse who feared that his apartment would be taken away from him, according to those who knew him.
James Ferrario, 45, lived by himself in the building after his father died in 2008.
Police tentatively identified the body recovered from the apartment Friday, but will not release the name until it is confirmed through DNA and the “coroner’s process,” Findlen said. Police have said that process could take weeks.
“We do believe that the person deceased in that home that we have discovered is very likely the shooter and suspect,” Findlen told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Friends and neighbors told the Modesto Bee that Ferrario took money and food from them and lived in the apartment like a survivalist, without hot water or electricity.
The apartment belonged to Ferrario and his two sisters, said his cousin, Yvonne DiMichele. “Both of his sisters are frightened of him since his father died,” she told the Bee. “They were afraid to kick him out.”
Darlene Williams, who along with her brother, Jonathan, grew up with Ferrario, told the Bee that Ferrario had lost his job as a security guard, and she would bring him money on occasion. She would slip the cash through a screen door because Ferrario was afraid someone would break in and force him out of the home, she told the newspaper.
Ferrario would only leave at night, dressed in his old security guard uniform, Jonathan Williams said.
“I don’t know if that was paranoia or not, but he was afraid his sisters would lock him out of the house if he left,” he said.
Other neighbors said Ferrario had handguns and rifles and security cameras around his house. One former resident, Anna Rivas, told the Bee she moved out after repeated confrontations with Ferrario, one in which he sprayed her husband and a friend with mace.
The Ferrario property had fallen behind on payments on a $15,000 Bank of America mortgage taken out in 2003, the newspaper said. The property owner also appears to have defaulted on $13,406 owed to the Whispering Woods Community Association.
The association foreclosed on the condo last year, followed by a bank foreclosure in December, the newspaper reported.
The deputy, Robert Paris, 53, and locksmith, Glendon David Engert, 35, were gunned down as they arrived at the apartment late Thursday morning to serve an eviction notice.
Paris, a 16-year veteran of the department, is survived by his parents, a brother and two adult children.
Friends tell the Bee that Engert was married. He had worked as a surveyor at an engineering firm until he was laid off and then learned to be a locksmith.
He had been hired by the landlord to help deputies gain entry to the apartment to serve the eviction notice, police said.
It was not clear how Thursday’s fire began, but the Bee reported the sheriff has acknowledged flash-bang devices and tear gas could have been responsible. Four apartments were destroyed by the fire, and 100 units were evacuated after the shooting.