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One of the employees of Van Unen Miersma Propane on Moffat Boulevard is silhouetted by the blinding lights of police cars that were parked near where the man, who wanted to steal a company delivery...


POSTED February 28, 2013 1:54 a.m.

• Man crashes into propane yard
• Causes propane pump fire
• Tries to steal propane tank truck
• Man apparently was shot

A four-hour stand-off between police and a gunman at a Manteca propane yard that closed Highway 99 creating massive traffic back-ups ended with the man being taken to a Modesto hospital.

The incident started shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday when witnesses said a man rammed his truck through the fence of the Van Unen Miersma Propane yard on the southwest corner of the Austin Road and Highway 99 interchange. The vehicle he was driving slammed into a propane pump that services drive-in customers causing it to explode and sending flames 25 to 30 feet into the evening sky.

A company employee by the name of John - he declined to provide his last name -rushed to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher. The man then opened fire on the employee with what the witness described as a pellet gun. The employee was not hurt.

The man then attempted to steal large a propane transport truck.

Manteca Police, San Joaquin County sheriff’s deputies and the Stanislaus County SWAT team responded to the propane yard that fronts on Moffat Boulevard.

 Police – standing along Moffat – conducted more than three hours of negotiations shouting to the man whom they called ”Michael” and urging him to surrender.

Sometime during the early part of the negotiations shots were fired and a man was heard screaming. It was not clear if the man shot himself or was shot by officers.

Negotiations then resumed with the negotiator continuing to order the man to throw his gun out of the truck and then get out of the truck with hands raised. The man repeatedly told negotiators he wanted to talk to his mother.

The negotiators promised he could call his mother if he surrendered. They also offered to get him medical attention and water if he would toss out his weapon and get out of the truck.

The man apparently spent much of the time lying down on the seat of the truck and out of view.

Police, concerned that should gunfire erupt, it could strike propane containers and cause an explosion, requested that the California Highway Patrol close down Highway 99.

A fire at another propane yard less than a quarter of a mile to the north in the 1990s turned 5-gallon propane tanks into projectiles that sent them more than 100 feet into the air and then rained down on the freeway.

Highway 99 was shut down northbound at Jack Tone Road in Ripon and southbound at Yosemite Avenue in Manteca. All eastbound Highway 120 Bypass traffic was diverted into the north onramp to Highway 99. That created a backup that stretched almost all the way to Interstate 5.

Manteca motorists caught in the back-up coming out of Modesto said it turned a 20-minute trip into a two-hour ordeal.

Police also closed down the Union Pacific Railroad main north-south valley line that runs right across Moffat from the propane yard. Typically UP runs at least one train an hour in the evening through Manteca.

Authorities also shut down parts of Austin Road and Moffat Boulevard.

The freeway reopened at 10:52 p.m. The man was transported to a Modesto hospital at 11:02 p.m.

Police were still investigating the incident at press-time.

It is not known why the man wanted to steal a propane truck. Authorities did not release the last name of the man.

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