Cop Watch

Monday, September 12, 2005

Records show deputy's troubled past

The deputy whose .40-caliber handgun was used to kill convenience-store clerk Dimitri Imad Harb deserved to be fired 14 years ago, according to a memo written in 1991 by King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, then an internal-affairs lieutenant.

Ferenc Zana "does not possess the integrity to wear the uniform," Rahr stated in the memo, after an internal-affairs investigation found that Zana had given alcohol and his car to two minors who had an auto accident and then lied about it.

Zana promptly got into more trouble, yet he remained on the force -- despite concerns expressed by his fellow officers.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer pieced together the disturbing and intertwined stories of Zana, 44, and his 23-year-old roommate, Christopher Bistryski -- who is charged with shooting Harb -- using documents requested from the Sheriff's Office, court records and interviews.

The case underscores what has become a major issue in the Sheriff's Office -- how much ability the sheriff has to discipline or fire errant officers.

Personnel records describe Zana as a spit-and-polish police officer, often commended for his appearance. But disciplinary records show a penchant for sloppy and sometimes dangerous behavior.

He twice ducked termination, once soon after Rahr had strongly recommended that he be fired if he broke rules again.