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2nd robbery in 12 days at Ripon bank; police catch suspects both times
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Ripon police officers are seen with three of the four Bay Area residents accused of Wednesday morning’s Bank of Stockton robbery. - photo by GLENN KAHL
RIPON — It was the second bank robbery this month for Ripon’s Bank of Stockton in the 200 block of West Main Street occurring shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday – suspects were quickly captured in both cases.

The robbery and its suspects brought an almost immediate interest from other departments including Livermore, Tracy, Manteca and Reno who sent detectives to Ripon Wednesday afternoon to question the four who were quickly taken into custody by a local team of officers.

Ripon patrolmen were again on top of the situation arresting the four suspects within minutes of two men walking out the south bank door with an undetermined amount of cash taken from a teller.

The alleged driver of the getaway car, Valina Jenkins, 20, of Berkeley and Jasmine Thomas, 18, with no known address, reportedly remained in their 1994 Buick Regal in the alley to the south of the bank while the two men Jeremy Morton, 20, of Oakland and Christopher D. Jennings, 24, went inside, witnesses reported.

Manteca Police believed the men may have been the same ones who were seen casing the Chase Bank in the 100 block of West Center Street at about 9:15 a.m. about half an hour before the Ripon robbery.  Detectives were looking at the bank’s surveillance video footage for confirmation.

Manteca police units were dispatched to the Center Street bank, but were unable to locate any suspects.  They did find two men matching the descriptions driving through a nearby alley and made a traffic stop, finding they had the wrong men.

Witnesses inside the Ripon bank said one of the men first went over to the new accounts desk and sat down like he was going to open an account. The other went to a teller displaying a note that demanded money.

Ripon Police Lt. Ed Ormonde noted that Jennings – the oldest of the band of four – had recently been released from the Sandy Mush Prison in Merced where he had been incarcerated on a bank robbery conviction.

Ormonde credited the city-wide Mesh camera system, with its two cameras installed in the bank, for alerting the dispatcher and officers on the street before the call actually went out on the air – a key factor allowing officers to respond as quickly as they did, he added.

He said that traffic officer Steve Meece was patrolling near the truck stops at Highway 99 and Jack Tone Road when he was alerted to the bank robbery in his patrol car and responded toward the freeway.

Ormonde said that Meece immediately got onto the southbound lanes of Highway 99 and headed southbound to the Main Street exit.  As he reached the end of the ramp where it intersects with Second Street on the top of the overpass, he met the robbery suspects in their vehicle about to turn onto the southbound freeway onramp heading toward Modesto.

Patrolman Alex Burgos was second on the scene to back up Meece, who already had the suspects in the car at gunpoint, as other officers arrived on the overpass where normal traffic was halted.

“If we didn’t have those units rolling, they might have escaped,” the lieutenant said.

Officers initiated a high risk hot stop and ordered the four out of the car, one by one, with their hands placed atop their heads and walking slowly backwards to the waiting officers at gunpoint.   One at a time they were handcuffed, and put into patrol cars.

Witnesses were a big help
Ormonde credited the numerous witnesses who saw the men in and out of the bank,  and who also saw them getting into their car and driving away.  Officers held a roadside lineup of the four suspects to allow the witnesses, shielded within police cars, to make positive identifications.

“The witnesses did a fabulous job,” Ormonde said.  “They gave good descriptions and noted unique characteristics.

He added that Ripon’s crime rate is one of the lowest in the state where the officer to citizen ratio is about 2.0 for every 1,000 residents.    

It was 12 days ago on Friday, Dec. 4, that a Merced man allegedly robbed the Bank of Stockton in Ripon leading Sgt. Tim Bailey on a pursuit southbound on Highway 99.  In attempting to exit the freeway at Hammett Road, the man lost control with his car flipping over and landing on its top and sliding down the freeway.  As the suspect crawled from the vehicle he faced the officer’s weapon with the suggestion that he stay on the ground.

They were all held at the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp in lieu of $50,000 bail, except for Jennings who had a $15,000 warrant from Santa Clara County upping his bail to $65,000.

The four will appear in the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court on Monday, Dec. 21, at 1:30 p.m.