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Off-duty, retired cops take down suspect
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Two uniformed Lathrop officers and an off-duty Tracy patrolman stand over a Manteca man charged with stealing a utility pickup truck, crashing into a big rig and fleeing on foot at McKinley and Yosemite Avenues. - photo by GLENN KAHL

An alleged truck thief was in the wrong place at the wrong time Monday not realizing he was about to run into three casually dressed law enforcement veterans in his effort to flee from a mad farmer shortly before 3:30 p.m.

It was something of a tag team pursuit when the owner of a south Manteca farm gave chase when he saw one of his pickup trucks being stolen. It was later spotted by three alert off-duty and retired law enforcement officers that led to the arrest of a 26-year-old Manteca man.

Dustin Meredith said he witnessed the theft of his truck as it was being driven out of his fenced compound on Almondwood Drive. He noted that there was a woman in a white HHR Chevy on the roadway who appeared to be connected with the theft – driving away in a southerly direction.

Meredith said he chased his pickup northbound on Airport Way and across Woodward Avenue to McKinley where the truck turned northward. When it reached Yosemite Avenue it crashed into a semi-tractor and trailer at the intersection after blowing the stop sign causing major damage to both vehicles.

The driver of the big rig said he stopped midway in his left turn when he suspected the pickup wasn’t about to stop and estimated its speed at about 60 miles an hour.

Meredith said the man ran across Yosemite and jumped over a chain link fence. At that point he gave up his foot chase feeling there was no way he would catch the thief. He didn’t count on the three law enforcement veterans in a private vehicle who witnessed the crash. They were just returning from the Tracy Rifle and Pistol Range.

The off-duty Tracy officer took over the chase on foot and the Ripon veteran commandeered a vehicle remembering saying, “Get out of my way, I’m driving.”

 She cut off the fleeing suspect who both officers corralled in an open dirt field to the northeast of the intersection. They held Ricky Jose Silva at gunpoint until Lathrop officers arrived on the scene some six minutes later. The Ripon officer used a plastic, one-time-use, set of handcuffs in her vehicle which were used to take Silva into custody and detain him.

Silva continued to lay handcuffed in the sandy loam for some 30 minutes with officers and firefighters waiting for him to comply, attempting to determine if he was actually injured in the chase. They finally stood him up and walked him to a patrol car and eventually transported the suspect to county jail in French Camp. 

Silva was charged with car theft and receiving stolen property, according to CHP Officer Angel Arceo. The officer said that Silva also had two outstanding warrants for his arrest on drugs charges. It was learned later that his warrants also included grand theft of personal property, commercial burglary, possession of a controlled substance, felony committed while on bail, auto burglary, auto theft with a prior, taking another vehicle without consent and for the commission of a felony while on bail or his own recognizance. 

Silva’s total bail was set at $68,375 with a court date set for Wednesday in the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court at 1:25 p.m.