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Police tackle suspect in bank lobby
Manteca Police Sgt. Mike Sexon takes inventory on the contents of a stolen 2015 Ford truck that he vowed to find on Monday. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Manteca Police Sgt. Mike Sexon vowed to catch a brazen auto theft suspect and he did just that Monday afternoon.

It was the end of a day-long search for a stolen pickup truck that reached a crescendo at 1:30 p.m. when red lights and sirens seemed to come from everywhere in downtown as patrol cars screeched to a stop in the front of the federal credit union at 200 East Yosemite Avenue responding to a call for help from Sexon.  The infusion of police vehicles created some confusion among motorists on Yosemite Avenue fearing there might be a bank robbery in progress.

Sexon had been looking for the newer Ford pickup truck that had been stolen from in front of a home on Powers Avenue March 26 where the owner had left it warming up as he returned to his house for a moment.  Sexon had literally devoted his day – between calls – to finding the truck.

He was driving on South Main Street when he spotted what he thought might just be the vehicle and followed in from Otis Alley to the Bank of America parking lot.  The 28-year-old driver slipped the truck into the first stall just north of the alley and began walking leisurely to the bank, the officer said.

Sexon said the man was only in the bank for some three minutes. He alerted his officers on the street to the possibility of an imminent arrest.  Andrew Easterwood walked back toward the truck as the sergeant said, “Hey bud, let me talk to you about your truck.”

With that the man bolted and ran toward the credit union building at the corner of Grant and Yosemite Avenue.  The officers arriving in two black and whites in front of the building heard on the radio that the suspect was running into the back door with officers chasing him.

Entering the front door Officers Sam Gallego and Aaron Montoya recalled that the suspect was focused on Officer Dale Goforth and others to his rear as he was tackled “football style” in the middle of the lobby where employees and customers alike were shocked by the police action.   Easterwood, of Ripon, was walked to a waiting patrol car and transported to jail.

Chief Nick Obligacion was on the scene and congratulated Sexon – “the hero of the day”— and his team for apprehending the suspect who was believed to have conducted a number of burglaries while in possession of the truck.  Officers said such a vehicle is difficult to find because there are so many white pickup trucks on the road.

Obligacion is urging the public to forgo warming up their engines before leaving their home.  It is a prime focus of motor vehicle thieves, he noted.  The owners of the truck used for a construction business were called to the scene and drove down to claim their vehicle. They said were missing some equipment.

Easterwood was transported to San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp later in the afternoon and charged with four felonies and two misdemeanors including auto theft, receiving stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, resisting and obstruction of officers.

He is being held in lieu of $48,645 in bail.  No court date has yet been set at the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court.