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4 men caught with 38 pants in Ford Taurus
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Officer Mike Kelly escorts Ronnald Bentz, 46, to a waiting police van after his arrest Wednesday for his involvement in the theft of $1,500 worth of men’s and women’s pants from the Kohl’s Department Store located near the intersection of Highway 120 and Airport Way. The handcuffed subject leaning against the sound wall at right was a passenger in the suspect vehicle when officers made their high risk car stop. He was transported to the city jail and later released from custody. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Four men were detained at gunpoint shortly after noon Wednesday on Highway 99 following a daylight burglary that almost netted them $1,500 in Levi pants from Kohl’s Department Store.

Manteca Police patrolman Armen Avakian said that Ronnald Bentz, 46, was captured on several video surveillance cameras as he entered the store and collected 38 pair of pants placing them in a store basket.

The cameras told the story of Bentz, of Stockton,  leaving the front door of the store as a maroon 1998 Ford Taurus that pulled up to the curbing with three men inside.  Bentz allegedly shoved the basket filled with the clothing into the vehicle as it sped away.  It was reportedly driven by Charles Nathaniel Smith, 51, also of Stockton.

Store security called the Manteca dispatch center and a call went out to officers to be on the lookout for the suspect vehicle driven by a blond man with long hair.  

Within minutes canine officer Randy Chiek spotted a vehicle and a driver matching the description exiting a vacant field on the east side of South Main Street at Atherton Way, just south of the Highway 120 Bypass.

The officer made a U-turn on South Main Street and dropped in behind the vehicle following them eastbound to Highway 99 where they headed north.  Officer Armen Avakian caught up with Chiek and the two units successfully pulled the vehicle over with red lights and siren half way down the off ramp to Yosemite Avenue.

The patrolmen initiated a high risk car stop and ordered the men out of the vehicle one at a time at gun point.  Sgt. Julie Renfroe pulled up behind the two officers and aided in the arrests as well as providing  a safety buffer on the freeway  with her rear unit to warn the oncoming traffic of the police activity.

Officers searched the vehicle and placed the more than three dozen pants on the lid of the car’s trunk where they could be photographed for evidence.

Both Smith and Bentz were charged with burglary and conspiracy.  Smith was held without bail due to a parole hold he had against him.  In addition he was issued a citation for driving on a suspended license and for having an open container of chocolate brandy in the car.  

Avakian said the actual value of the pants was $1,393.62; with tax of $128.91 it would have come to $1,522.53.  He added that the men could have saved $111 if they had actually purchased the pants – since they were on sale.

Bentz was also jailed with a $25,000 felony warrant out for his arrest.  He and Smith are being held in the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp.  Bentz has a bail amount of $85,000 and his court date is set for July 22.  Smith is due in court on July 23, both to appear in the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court.