By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Manteca Ford, community replace Good Samaritans car
Car-for-Lemus-DSC 0198a
It was a total shock for Jesse Lemus, left, his wife Sarah and employer Victor Fiore when they went to Manteca Ford Thursday morning they thought to pick out a replacement car and contract for payments. Dealership owner Phil Waterford, right, made it possible for them to drive away with a 1999 Mercedes, all paid for. - photo by GLENN KAHL

It started as a tragedy with an ironic twist.

A Manteca appliance delivery man unselfishly went to the aid of a mortally injured motorcycle rider on Highway 99. His unattended vehicle was then stolen by the fleeing suspect that police said caused the fatal accident. It was found later stripped and was impounded costing the Good Samaritan $285 to retrieve a vehicle that was no longer operable.

That story now has a happy ending for the Good Samaritan.

A community effort - with a big boost from Phil Waterford and the Manteca Ford staff - put Jesse Lemus behind the wheel of a 1999 Mercedes.

Manteca Police had been trying to apprehend a wanted felon who had run across the Highway 99 freeway just south of Yosemite Avenue and then ran back causing southbound traffic to come to a screeching halt.  A Ceres woman riding on the back of her husband’s motorcycle was mortally injured in the series of events.

Lemus, a delivery man for Center Appliance on North Main Street, was on his way home from Lathrop Road going south when the incident occurred about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3. 

Lemus and his wife Sarah had no idea they would be getting a replacement car for their 1996 Nissan Sentra when they went to the Manteca Ford Thursday at 10 a.m. along with his boss, Center Appliance owner Victor Fiore.

The couple knew that donations to help them were coming in the front door of the appliance store on North Main Street from people in the community who wanted to help the Good Samaritan get another set of wheels. 

They were aware that in addition to Fiore putting up $500 and offering to match any contributions, that Ford dealer Phil Waterford said he would match what the appliance dealer had offered.   That was only totaling about $2,000 toward a car this week.

1999 Mercedes is theirs at no cost

Sarah Lemus, with two-year-old son Adahn in her arms, said she and her husband were totally awestruck when they learned the 1999 reconditioned Mercedes with all the bells and whistles parked in front of the showroom was theirs – no strings attached.

“I thought we were just coming here to pick out a car and sign up for payments,” she said, “to make the difference between the donations and the cost of the car.”

Good Morning Sacramento had already arrived in front of the dealership at 9:30.   A reporter stepped up and placed an earpiece into Jesse’s ear and started interviewing and filming. Lemus was on the air live talking and answering questions from two reporters in the studio. 

 Still he hadn’t been told that they were being given a car until during the interview when a Ford staffer interjected with, “Well, that’s your car right there,” pointing toward the silver Mercedes near where they were standing.

Lemus and his wife couldn’t imagine that it was going to be a complete gift from a thankful citizenry and the two Manteca businesses.  Emmy Esteves of Center Appliance had started the ball rolling making the media aware of the dilemma that Lemus had created for himself by being a Good Samaritan.  Esteves’ effort just snowballed into a huge public response to help her delivery man. 

The couple was visibly shocked by the news, saying it was incredible that so many people had come forward to help them in their struggle to find a car they could afford.

The Blue Book on the Mercedes was reported to be $10,000 – a difference of about $8,000 that was picked up by Waterford and his employees.  Many of those employees filed out of the sales and service departments to be in the photograph with the couple receiving their “new” vehicle.

Waterford said they wanted to come up with something that would provide good transportation for Lemus and his family.  He said the car has been completely reconditioned saying he feels it will meet their needs. 

“It’s extremely courageous what he did and as I talked to him he shared that he would do it all over again,” Waterford said. “So, you know, it’s just the act of kindness.  That’s what it is all about – so many people are in need right now, so many people are hurting.  But when you see people coming together to help one another – that’s a beautiful thing.  I just knew we had to help him and it’s an honor to know this young man.”

He told Lemus and his wife that he and his wife Rose would like to take them to dinner within the next two weeks adding that their two youngsters had become fast friends playing at the dealership Thursday morning.

Lemus’ prayers are with Ceres family

Lemus said he wanted to offer prayers and condolences from himself and his wife to the Ceres family that lost a wife and mother in the Sept. 3 crash caused by the running felon who sprinted across the Highway 99 traffic lanes evading police and led countless officers on a three-county pursuit.

His wife said her husband Jesse is constantly helping people in need thinking of himself only after the fact.  He noted that he was glad he was able to help when he saw the smoke from the tires of the motorcycle and saw the pair of riders go down on the pavement.

When he stopped on the freeway, the husband of the injured woman asked him to go to his wife’s aid.  Jesse didn’t hesitate and said he was surprised to see his car heading down Highway 99. 

“I felt violated,” he recalled.