MODESTO -- Authorities on Friday found a body in the charred rubble of a burned apartment building where a gunman holed up in an 11-hour standoff with police Thursday after a deputy and a locksmith were killed while trying to serve an eviction notice.
Sheriff Adam Christianson said the body was that of the gunman. Modesto police, however, would not confirm that.
The body was discovered in the ruins of the northwest Modesto home that caught fire late Thursday. Police gave no other details, such as the gender of the body.
The eviction proceedings, however, were filed against 45-year-old James Ferrario, who owned the property.
His father was one of the original owners in the development formerly known as Prescott Estates, which was developed in 1972. Neighbors and family members said Ferrario lived with his father until the latter’s death in 2008, and continued to live there alone afterward. They described him as an anti-social, paranoid and sometimes strange man.
Police have not released the name of the man they believe was holed up in the apartment, but they have said they presume he is dead.
Authorities believe it might take days or possibly weeks to confirm the identity of the body. Nobody else was found in the burned building.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said Friday he is convinced the man found was the gunman who killed Deputy Bob Paris, 53, and locksmith Glendon Engert, 35. A second deputy was uninjured.
“This senseless act of violence was committed by one person and he is dead,” Christianson said.
Investigators were not saying whether the gunman fired at the victims through the apartment’s front door, or if either of the deputies had a chance to return fire. Some neighbors have described hearing several bursts of shots.
The only building damaged in the fire in the 2100 block of Chrysler Drive was the fourplex where the gunman was Thursday. The building has four apartments, and the suspect was believed to be on the first floor.
It’s still unclear how the fire began, since authorities on Friday were not releasing details about the investigation. Christianson acknowledged late Thursday that a combination of flash-bang devices and tear gas could have been responsible.
Friday afternoon, Modesto police spokesman Chris Adams insisted that SWAT teams did nothing that would have started the blaze.
There are two types of tear gas cannisters police use. One is an incendiary cannister called a “burner,” which can start a fire, Adams said. The department doesn’t deploy burners; it only uses non-incendiary cannisters.
He said SWAT teams from several police agencies surrounded the home, including the one from Modesto police, which was stationed in front of the home. Investigators were certain the gunman was alive Thursday night, because someone was turning off and on the lights inside the home as SWAT teams began launching tear gas into the apartment.
Early Friday, Christianson said, “We exhausted every option to try to get the suspect to surrender.”
About 9 p.m., a small team of SWAT officers from various agencies approached the front of the home, including Modesto police officers. The huge blaze erupted about 9:45 p.m., engulfing the apartment building.
“We didn’t have anybody go inside the house,” Adams said. “We didn’t deploy anything inside the house that should have set the fire.”
The sheriff said everyone living in or near the building had been evacuated, so neighbors were not in danger.