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Police: Fleeing suspect causes death of biker on Highway 99

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POSTED September 6, 2011 1:50 a.m.

A Ceres woman has died from her injuries after being thrown from her motorcycle Saturday night when other vehicles braked to a stop as a Manteca man attempted to outrun police officers across four lanes of Highway 99 traffic just south of Yosemite Avenue.

One rider in the group said in a blog, “This guy tried to rob my motorcycle first.  I was scared of getting rear ended when I had to stop as this guy jumped in front of me on the freeway.”

Wanted in burglary investigations Brett Andrew Phares, 28, – now charged with murder – led officers on a three-county chase after stopping the southbound freeway traffic.   He had run from officers who were attempting to arrest him near the Carl’s Jr. restaurant in the Spreckels Park commercial center just west of Highway 99.

Manteca Police officers said he had jumped the freeway fence and sprinted across both southbound and northbound lanes to evade capture.  When he reached the commercial area near Wendy’s restaurant on Yosemite Avenue, he saw two police units and retraced his steps running back across the freeway.  As he crossed the southbound lanes motorists slowed including a group of motorcycle riders with the one woman rider being thrown from her bike.

According to a witness, Phares took advantage of the situation as a motorist stopped to aid the injured biker.  He allegedly took her vehicle and headed south on Highway 99.  Two Manteca officers intercepted his car at Austin Road and initiated a pursuit – soon to be joined by Ripon Police units.

The chase initially hit speeds of 90 to 95 miles an hour, Manteca officers said.  In Modesto it was taken over by California Highway Patrol units that were eventually joined by Stanislaus County and Merced County deputies and the CHP helicopter.   At one point the CHP reportedly called off the chase and deputies were ordered to drop back because of the man’s erratic driving.

Commandeers another car

Fox 40 TV News reported that freelance photojournalist Carlos Rodriguez had become involved in the chase while he was out shopping with his wife and their two month old son.

Rodriguez said his evening had begun as a typical Saturday night for him with his family in the car just out buying school supplies.  He recalled he turned his scanner on and heard the pursuit that got him personally involved and his car commandeered by the suspect with his wife and child inside.

Fox 40 reported that when Rodriguez caught up with the pursuit, Phares was headed north again just south of Turlock driving the wrong way against southbound traffic.  The suspect drove past the photojournalist’s car at a slow speed – there wasn’t anyone in the vehicle as it headed toward him on the shoulder, he said.  

The reporter was quoted as further saying that the next thing he knew he heard pounding and screaming coming from the inside of his vehicle. The suspect drove away with his family members and a police scanner inside.

A CHP officer found Rodriguez standing on the roadside a short time later telling him his wife and child had been let out of the car two exits to the north.  He said he took off running on foot to find them.  They were OK.

The Manteca suspect later ran out of gas, still in the journalist’s car, near the Kansas Avenue exit in Modesto where Stanislaus deputies and CHP officers chased him down on foot with the help of the CHP helicopter overhead.

One blogger, who knew the members of the motorcycle group that were involved in traffic at Highway 99 and Yosemite Avenue, offered her outlook on the incident.  She said that every single one of the cyclists is a “hard working and law abiding citizen.”

She added that they are business owners and professionals who donate their time and money regularly to their churches and other charities – adding that they provide jobs, pay their taxes and have raised their children to become respectable contributors to society.

Several other bloggers who claimed to be involved at the scene went on line as well with their accounts.  

One woman said she and her husband were on their Tri-Glide motorcycle immediately behind the bike that crashed.  She said a truck had his warning flashers activated attempting to alert traffic to the problem ahead adding that the motorcycle ahead of them had braked up trying to avoid hitting anyone.

“You don’t expect to see anyone running across the freeway.”

Another blogger said he had listened to the entire pursuit on his scanner and heard that the suspect had attempted to ram several CHP units during the chase down and back up Highway 99.  He also noted that before the highway patrol had called off the chase because of the suspect’s erratic driving, they had planned to put out a spike strip to stop the vehicle.  

After learning he was reportedly planning “suicide by cop” the spike strip plan was declined.

Phares is scheduled to appear in San Joaquin County Superior Court at 9 a.m. today in Department Z.  In addition to the murder charge, he is also being held for evading officers with wanton disregard for public safety, vehicle theft and resisting arrest.  He had another no-bail warrant that had been issued for his arrest, according to the Sheriff’s website.

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