Deputy's gunfire killed suicidal man

etracy@modbee.comJuly 6, 2012 

— Gunfire from a Stanislaus County deputy's pistol is what killed a Turlock man who exchanged shots with law enforcement on the Fourth of July.

William Nazar, 43, died from at least one gunshot wound, Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy Royjindar Singh said Thursday.

A person at the farmhouse in the 400 block of Verduga Road called 911 about 3 p.m. Wednesday to report that Nazar was threatening to kill himself.

When two deputies arrived, Nazar shot at them, Singh said. Deputy Steve Gerhardt returned fire, hitting Nazar. Both deputies took cover and radioed for help.

Three people -- two teenagers and an adult -- who were on the property when the shots were fired ran toward the deputies, who covered them in case the suspect started shooting again, Singh said.

The three told deputies there were two other people still on the property. About half an hour later, when dozens of reinforcements had arrived, law enforcement used a loud speaker to instruct the two others to come to safety, Singh said.

Gerhardt, who has been employed at the Sheriff's Department since 2001 and has worked in law enforcement for 18½ years, is on paid administrative leave, which is standard policy when a deputy is involved in a shooting.

A day after the shooting that brought law enforcement agencies from Stanislaus and Merced counties to the east Turlock farm for several hours, neighbors, a family friend and Nazar's ex-wife offered varying descriptions of the man police said was suicidal.

Neighbors 'shocked'

Neighbors Scott and Carolyn Linn said Thursday they would often hear Nazar target shooting at his home, but neither thought he would use a gun against law enforcement.

"It shocked me," said Scott Linn, 65. "He was an intense kid, but a very nice kid. He was very active in Neighborhood Watch and very supportive of law enforcement."

Nazar grew up at the home on Verduga Road, according to family friends, and moved back there to live with his father about six years ago.

Paul Nazar died in December at the age of 80.

William Nazar's 20-year-old son, Tyler, was at the home when his father was shot, according to his friend Daniel Fleming.

A Bee reporter talked to Tyler Nazar at the Verduga home Thursday, but he declined to comment.

Fleming, who said William Nazar was like a father to him, said, "He was an amazing person."

"He showed me how to work on cars and work on the farm. He showed me how to work for what I wanted. He showed me how to be a man," he said. "Someone like that is not a bad person."

But ex-wife Caroline O'Connell, who is not Tyler's mother, said Wil- liam Nazar had a dark side.

She was only married to him for two years in the mid-1990s, she said, because he became abusive.

"He was violent-tempered," said O'Connell, who lives in Patterson. "He would throw things in the house and break things."

Nazar was arrested once on suspicion of domestic violence but never prosecuted, she said.

Gunfire exchanged

Law enforcement from throughout the region converged on the area after the gunfire exchange Wednesday, including SWAT teams from the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and Ceres and Modesto police departments.

About an hour after the incident began, a SWAT team moved in. While clearing outbuildings around the house, they saw Nazar lying on the ground and confirmed he was dead. SWAT team members then searched the house before detectives could process the scene around 6:30 p.m.

Deputies found a variety of firearms during a search, Singh said, but he would not say how many or what types of weapons were found.

Sheriff's homicide detectives and Internal Affairs, as well as the Stanislaus County district attorney's office, are investigating the case.

Singh said detectives would not release any information about the people at the scene, how they were involved, who called police or what, if any, words were exchanged between Nazar and the deputies.

Modesto Bee staff writer Patty Guerra contributed to this report.

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