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Were burglar suspects trying to ambush police officer?
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Detective Sam Gallego identifies a stolen Remington shotgun with patrolman Shawn Cavin. Drawers of jewelry are stacked on the street behind them that had been taken in a Stockton home burglary. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Manteca Police Detective Sergeant Lewis Clark was making a courtesy traffic stop for speed on his way to work – a traffic stop that could have been his last.

Fearing an ambush, he hesitated approaching the car on Austin Road after the driver voluntarily pulled over. It was later confirmed his hunch had merit.  Had he approached the driver’s door he probably would have been killed.  

Clark was driving his unmarked car – a police unit he can no longer take home after next week – from his rural home shortly before 10 a.m.  He was unnerved by the speed of a woman motorist driving a 2007 Toyota Rav4 south on Jack Tone Road about two miles north of French Camp Road.

Detectives have traditionally been allowed to take their unmarked cars home because they are on 24-hour call for police emergencies.  Due to the economic cutbacks at city hall the city’s detectives will no longer be taking them out of the police department.

Not knowing the four occupants had allegedly just been involved in the theft of trays of expensive jewelry, high end purses, a Bose radio and a Remington Wingmaster shotgun from a south Stockton ranch house, he decided to stop the car over to counsel the driver on her speed.

All Manteca residents, they had already traveled to the south of Five Corners, where the woman turned east onto Louise Avenue and then south onto Austin Road.  Before Sgt. Clark activated his red light, the car stopped on the side of Austin Road parking in a “suspicious” angle.

As Sgt. Clark paused behind the trio in his Ford Taurus, considering his next step, the woman, Jessica Marie Lopez, 30, sped off leaving him on the side of the road.  He said he “just didn’t feel comfortable approaching the vehicle.”  He suspected it might be an ambush situation as he initiated a pursuit with red lights and siren following the car at speeds nearing 90 miles per hour southbound onto Yosemite Avenue.

He said she was not only driving at a high rate of speed but noted she was all over the road as well.

The woman stopped at Button Avenue and one male passenger fled out of the car. He is still being sought by officers.  The man was described as being a white male in his mid 20s, bald head with a baggy white shirt, baggy blue jeans and having unusually large ears.

Other patrol units joined the pursuit as it reached Yosemite Avenue and continued up Cottage Avenue where Clark said he cut back on his speed, fearing an innocent motorist or pedestrian might become a victim.  As he cleared the Cottage Avenue bridge over Highway 99, he said he saw the black Toyota turn into a subdivision near Louise Avenue.

As he entered into the subdivision, he spotted a man and a woman, Leonardo Muale “Pee-Wee” Almanar, 24, and Doreen Bird, 28, fleeing from the car.  Officers reaching the scene behind Clark arrested the two of them separately.  Clark continued on and pulled the woman over on Saratoga Avenue after she circled through the subdivision, stopping inside the subdivision just west of Cottage Avenue.

Patrolman Ken Wells arrested Alamar and motorcycle officer Bill Walmer took Bird into custody.

Neighbors standing in front of their home said that after Alamar exited the Toyota, he asked to hide in their back yards,  but they reportedly told  him to leave.  Officers said they were told he continued to attempt to jump fences.   All three were arrested without incident, police said.

Suspects spooked by house cleaners

The car bore dealership paper advertising plates on both front and rear.  Registration dated back two years to 2007, police said.  A license plate on the front seat of the car bore a current 2009 tag, however.  Police did not confirm whether or not that tag had been stolen.

The home burglary occurred in the rural 17000 block of Sola Road in the southeast section of Stockton – farm country east of Jack Tone Road off of Mariposa Road.  The suspects reportedly entered through an unlocked garage door, but were soon spooked by house cleaners who were coming up the driveway.

The suspects reportedly ran to their vehicle with jewelry drawers in hand, and left the upscale home driving south on Jack Tone Road only to pass Sgt. Clark on his way to work.

The three suspects were charged with burglary, possession of stolen property and conspiracy.  Alamar was put on a parole hold – being on parole for conviction of possession of fire arms.  Alamar and Lopez were also charged for being felons in possession of a firearm.  Lopez was additionally charged with felony evading a police officer with wanton disregard for public safety.