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Manteca cops arrest suspect in beating of Escalon officer
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The beating of an Escalon police officer shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday during a traffic stop brought mutual aid from Manteca and Ripon police departments as well as the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department.

Just hours before Escalon had seen the culmination of a “shots fired” pursuit that ended there after three subjects were involved in a car burglary at the Bass Pro Shops on the Highway 120 Bypass with the victims chasing them toward Escalon.  

Officer Rob Lackey had pulled over a vehicle in Escalon at Highway 120 and Wagner Road after receiving reports of reckless driving.   When he attempted to arrest the driver a struggle ensued and both men reportedly went to the ground.  The suspect got to his feet after the officer had turned his knee and allegedly struck the officer on top of his head with his fist, according to interim Escalon Police Chief Jim Shaw.  

The officer reportedly fired his Taser at the suspect, but it had no effect. The motorist disappeared running off into the darkness.  Some 30 officers had responded to the “officer needs help” call with police cars driving into Escalon from every direction.

The suspect had knock on the door of a rural farm house asking for a ride to Manteca, but he was turned down by the resident, police said.

Chief Shaw said the suspect had traveled some seven miles before he was tracked to Jack Tone Road and Highway 120 at about 4 a.m. where Manteca officer Eddie Cardenas searched the area with the “FLIR” forward linear infrared device and picked up the outline of the suspect’s body in the predawn hours from the heat his body generated.  He was out in a field at that location.Officer Cardenas and other officers were successful in apprehending the suspect, Joshua Watkins, 25, who resides in the 1000 block of Phillips Avenue in Manteca.   The Manteca officer called an ambulance to take the suspect to a hospital for the injuries he had sustained.  He remained in the San Joaquin County Hospital in French Camp all day Saturday and will be released to the Escalon Police Department officers.

The Escalon officer was transported to Oak Valley Hospital in Oakdale for treatment of his injuries that were determined to be mostly ligaments that were possibly torn.  

Chief Shaw had nothing but praise for the way the several agencies came to the aid of his officer.  “It was a very, very connected effort.  We had a blue parade (of police cars) and it was heartfelt,” he said.

The chief commended Officer Lackey as being “a great officer who is very involved in the community.  I have great respect for how he handles himself in his public relations,” he said.