By Tracie Cone
MODESTO, Calif. — Authorities prepared Friday to enter a fire-gutted, California apartment where they expected to find a suspect in the shooting deaths of a deputy and a civilian after a daylong standoff.
Modesto police spokesman Chris Adams said he did not know if the suspect was still alive after the overnight fire in the building.
"At this point, everyone's seen the damage. You can make your own opinion from there," Adams said, adding that police were waiting for clearance from fire officials before entering.
Authorities also needed to check for possible explosives in the building, he said.
The standoff began Thursday morning after gunfire broke out as two Stanislaus County deputies went to the Whispering Woods development to serve an eviction notice.
The deputy and civilian were killed, and the suspect immediately barricaded himself inside an apartment.
At one point, police broke the windows of the apartment with bean bag shots and fired flash-bang grenades and tear gas. Authorities evacuated nearby residents in the development of freestanding buildings, each divided into four apartments.
It was not clear how the fire began, but the Modesto Bee reported the sheriff has acknowledged flash-bang devices and tear gas could have been responsible. Adams did not provide details of damage to the building.
Around 9 p.m., six officers rushed toward the apartment, the Bee reported. Sharp bangs from concussive devices were heard for more than an hour, and officers used loudspeakers to communicate with the man to pick up the phone. No one came out.
As police shot the flash-bang grenades, they could see the apartment lights being turned on and off, confirming someone was inside, Adams said.
Television footage later showed flames pouring from the top of a building. Two hours later, fire officials said there were signs that the structure was collapsing.
The suspect was believed to be on the first floor of the building.
Officials identified the deputy killed as Robert Paris.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson called the incident "another dark day" for law enforcement in California.
"One of my valued members of my team is dead," a distraught Christianson told reporters. "I am overwhelmingly frustrated that we don't have the sufficient resources to protect the community."
Rihanna Brookshire, who lives next door from the shooting scene, said her children had just gone outside to play when the shooting began. Just as they came back into the house and shut the door, they heard a loud bang.
"I thought it was a backfire. We looked outside. My daughter saw a police officer dead on the ground. She said, `Mommy, there's blood everywhere,'" said Brookshire, who was among the residents still evacuated Friday from about 100 units in the surrounding area.
Brookshire said she occasionally saw the man who lived in the apartment outside but didn't know him.
Christianson believed his deputies did not return fire.
Paris, 53, was a 16-year veteran of the department. He is survived by his parents, a brother and two adult children.
The name of the civilian has not been released, and authorities have refused to discuss any details about the person.
Authorities told the Bee the suspect is in his mid-40s and may have had military training.
Jonathon Mullinix, 20, a neighbor who lived two doors down from the apartment where the shooting took place, said the man who lived there was reserved and often kept to himself.
He told Mullinix he worked for a private security company and had a couple of handguns, rifles and shotguns.
"It was a shock," Mullinix said. "He didn't seem like this kind of person at all. He seemed like someone who wanted to be left alone."
The Whispering Woods development opened in 2002 on the site of the former Prescott Estates, which was known for decades as one of the most crime-plagued and substandard housing areas in Modesto, according to the Bee.
The city shut down Prescott Estates, and the property was cleaned and extensively remodeled. Adams said the area's crime problems have improved significantly since then.
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press