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Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Former sheriff's deputy knew roommate unstable

Seattle Times staff reporter

A former King County sheriff's deputy knew his roommate had mental-health disorders, drinking problems and brushes with law-enforcement officers before the roommate allegedly used the deputy's personal pistol to kill a Kenmore convenience-store clerk, newly released records show.

The deputy, Ferenc Zana, 44, resigned from the Sheriff's Office last month, avoiding disciplinary action in an internal investigation stemming from the Aug. 20 shooting of clerk Mohammed-Imad "Dimitri" Harb at a Plaid Pantry store near Zana's home.

Sheriff Sue Rahr informed Zana that she had planned to fire him for violating department rules governing ethics, conflicts of interests, appropriate use of authority and personal conduct. But she accepted his retirement, effective Dec. 20.

Her action came at a time when the department had been under scrutiny for the way it has handled internal discipline, leading to changes in its operations and the formation of a blue-ribbon panel.

King County prosecutors have charged the roommate, Christopher Bistryski, 24, who was living with Zana at the time of Harb's slaying, with first-degree murder.

Gun left in kitchen

On the night of the killing, Zana drove Bistryski home from a bar and then Zana went to bed, leaving his fanny pack with his gun on the kitchen counter, according to charging papers.

Soon afterward, Zana heard gunshots, ran outside and ordered his roommate to drop the weapon and called other deputies, the papers say.

Zana and Bistryski met in an Internet chat room about five to six years ago, then began a dating relationship that lasted for four years, according to internal investigation documents made public Monday by the Sheriff's Office under a public-records request. Bistryski moved in with Zana in June 2004, the documents say.

Rahr and two other commanders concluded that Zana knew since early in his relationship with Bistryski that Bistryski had felony convictions as a juvenile, according to the documents. Zana also knew Bistryski had mental-health disorders and problems with alcohol abuse, the documents say.

Additionally, Zana had been advised that Bistryski had been involved in a hit-and-run accident with Zana's vehicle after Bistryski had been drinking, according to the documents.

When Bistryski tried to commit suicide last year, a department commander spoke with Zana about possible violations of department policy, the documents say.

After Bistryski attempted suicide a second time last year, Zana promised the commander he would kick Bistryski out of their residence if he had one more drink or quit counseling that he was undergoing, according to the documents.

A history of problems

Bistryski violated both conditions, but Zana "continued to tolerate [Bistryski's] drinking, despite the obvious and potential problems that existed when [Bistryski] consumed alcohol, to include self-mutilation, aggressive and/or violent behavior," the documents say.

Zana couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

According to sheriff's records disclosed last year, Zana was repeatedly disciplined early in his career for violating department regulations. In 1990, he was suspended for 10 days for furnishing alcohol to two minors, one of whom became involved in a traffic accident. Zana was charged with a misdemeanor but was found not guilty.

Zana also was reprimanded in 1989 for falling asleep while guarding a crime scene. He also was counseled for failing to report a collision of his patrol car and a bicycle.

In 1992, he was suspended for 13 days for making personal phone calls on a county phone line, and paid $95 in restitution.

Earlier this month, Rahr announced a litany of sweeping changes for the Sheriff's Office that include creating performance standards for department employees.

Rahr, who was elected sheriff in November after spending 10 months as acting sheriff, said the changes are all geared to making the department more efficient and ensuring its operations are predictable and transparent.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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