Two idling cars being warmed up for a commute to work Wednesday morning on Chestnut Avenue drew the interest of auto thieves who made off with a ’92 black Toyota shortly after 6 a.m. — leading to a police pursuit two hours later.
“It’s actually a gift to auto thieves,” one Manteca Police officer said of the habit of warming a car up while getting a second cup of coffee. He added that they don’t have to work at stealing a car they just have to find one running in a driveway with no one around.
In this case there were two — right across the street from each other.
Shortly after 8 a.m. a Manteca officer assigned to the Delta Auto Theft Task Force (DELTARAT) spotted the stolen car on Alameda Street at Greenbrier and dropped in behind the vehicle in the morning’s heavy fog.
He immediately requested backup from marked units to meet up with him and attempt to make a traffic stop. Sergeant Ralph Colin along with officers Eva Steele, William Walmer and April Pliler all neared the intersection of Union Road and Crom Street about the same time.
Officers said the suspect, Joshua Johnson, 26, was in the inside lane when he apparently noticed officers behind him. He let one passenger. Anthony Richard Tostado, 22, out in the middle of the street and gunned the stolen vehicle around the traffic in the lane to his right.
Tostado was arrested by officers near the tennis courts where a short foot pursuit ended. They put him down on the curb in a sitting position. Although he was handcuffed he got up and fled into the fog. Officers began a foot pursuit and located the man near the Hensley Building at Union and Center Streets.
Walmer said as the motorist made the right turn onto Crom he found a vehicle in front of him and attempted to pass — finding himself in a head-on position with an oncoming car. He reportedly cut to the left, jumped the curbing and hit a 90s Chrysler Town and Country parked at the curb in the 1200 block of Crom.
The driver drove between the SUV and a cluster of mail boxes near the sidewalk leaving tire tracks in the grass and continued westbound in the fog. Sgt. Ralph Colin called off the pursuit at Sepulveda Avenue. The fleeing suspect continued west to Airport Way where it collided with a woman driving northbound taking her two young children to school. The children reportedly were not hurt but the mother complained of pain. She told officers the other car lost control on impact.
Officers said, “he just locked it up,” at the intersection and was T-boned near the left rear wheel.
He continued south on Airport Way and pulled into a graveled front yard in the 400 block — in front of patrolman Armen Avakian. The officer aired his position and other patrolmen and members of the Street Crimes Unit set up a perimeter to locate the driver — a woman passenger, Tamara Magoe, 26, remained in the car.
In their search of sheds behind the Airport Way residences officers found the suspect hiding inside a cardboard box.
They said he had put the box over his head to hide. It wasn’t tall enough to hide his feet.
Officer Mike Kelly spied the shoes, lifted the box off of the suspect who quickly wanted to fight with the patrolman.
That didn’t last long and he was cuffed and taken into custody.
Police discovered a toy replica of an MP5 submachine gun in the back seat of the stolen vehicle when they later searched it for evidence.
Both men were taken to San Joaquin County Jail where they were booked into custody.
Johnson was charged with wanton disregard for public safety, hit and run resulting in injury and receiving stolen property — a motor vehicle.
Tostado was jailed with no bail for a number of felony and misdemeanor warrants, along with receiving stolen property — a motor vehicle, taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent and resisting arrest.
Tostado was also charged with escape after being arrested.
Johnson is being held in lieu of $594,000 in bail. The woman was not listed on the county jail roster Wednesday night.