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Suspect in stand-off is 32-year-old Mantecan

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POSTED March 2, 2013 1:53 a.m.

A man that squared off with police in a propane company parking lot Wednesday night and forced a four-hour closure of Highway 99 in both directions has been arrested.

Jason Michael Stowers – a 32-year-old Manteca resident – was taken into custody Thursday afternoon immediately after he was released from Doctor’s Medical Center of Modesto where he was being treated for injuries sustained during the tense standoff.

Police officers from Manteca and Ripon as well as Sherriff’s deputies from Stanislaus County responded to the call of a man with a gun that was forcibly trying to steal a propane truck from the Van Unen Miersma Propane Company, and discovered Stowers – armed with a realistic looking airsoft pistol – attempting to flee.

A coordinated effort between officials on-site – using the nearby Crossroads Grace Community Church as a staging area and command center – and dispatchers led to the decision to close the freeway in both directions in the event of a gas explosion.

Union Pacific Railroad was also asked to hold their trains while negotiators attempted to peacefully end the situation.

After being taken down to the Manteca Police Department where he was questioned by local officers and the California Highway Patrol, Stowers was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail on charges of brandishing a replica firearm, carjacking, felony vandalism and obstructing/resisting a police officer. Charges of driving under the influence of drugs are pending the results of a toxicology report.

Early information about what was unfolding, however, might not necessarily have been clear.

Manteca Police Department units responded to the scene after receiving numbers calls about a fire at the company – visible to traffic traveling southbound on adjacent Highway 99 – and may have been told that the suspect shot one of the workers is his attempt to secure one of the propane trucks.

What really transpired wasn’t quite as Hollywood. A propane company worker reported that while he was unloading one of the transport trucks he heard a vehicle barreling towards the locked gate. Stowers then crashed his vehicle – igniting a fire – and jumped out to shoot the employee with the airsoft gun in his attempt to secure the propane hauler.

Initial reports of the fire, however, were reportedly overdramatized according to the business owner. A number of safety mechanisms – including emergency shutoffs that seal pipes to prevent an unlimited supply of propane from feeding a fire – were in place and worked according to plan. The flames that motorists reported seeing, he said, were fueled by the remnants of the gas in the line that was sparked as a result of the crash.

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