Ripon officers gave chase – on foot and in patrol cars – after two young gang members had tore up the softball fields at Stouffer Park with their vehicles at 1 p.m. Thursday, capturing both of them, according to police spokesman First Sergeant Steve Merchant.
Residents in the area of Manthey Road and East Main Street called police saying the suspects were driving at a high rate of speed in the park, doing “doughnuts” in the softball diamonds a few yards away from children and adults celebrating the Fourth.
The suspects were reportedly driving a red Ford van and a maroon Honda.
Patrol units and one motorcycle officer responded immediately to the scene, Merchant said. They found damage they estimated at more than $3,000 to the community softball fields.
Officer Mindy Morris attempted to make contact with the teen driver of the Honda who was still in the area. Sgt. Merchant said he fled from her and she chased him on foot for some 150 yards where he attempted to hide in the shrubbery. Morris was able to take him into custody without further incident, he said.
As Morris was running after the Honda driver, Ripon officers spotted the suspect in the red Ford van leaving the scene at a high rate of speed, Merchant said, with officers beginning their pursuit.
“The driver recklessly endangered the public by driving through stop signs and speeding in excess of 60 miles per hour in a residential area. Motor officer Mario Ysit attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle, however the driver fled from him and from several marked units,” according to the sergeant.
Officers continued their pursuit on Milgeo Avenue to the north and into the dead end of the Barton Ranch on the east side of Ripon where the teen crashed into a large tree and fled the vehicle on foot. A citizen told officers the driver was seen in a nearby orchard and the police set up a perimeter and quickly took the youth into custody without incident.
A Ripon police dispatcher had received a “be on the lookout” radio contact from Modesto Police Department that the Honda had been stolen earlier in the day from a citizen in their community. The driver of the stolen Honda was reportedly a 17-year-old male listed as a documented gang member from Federal Way, Wash.
The suspect who had been driving the Ford van with the stolen license plate was said to be a 15-year-old male from Modesto – also a documented gang member.
Sgt. Merchant said the Ripon Police Department would like to thank the local citizenry for quickly calling the police department and providing valuable information.
“The quick response of the patrol team, combined with the involved, concerned citizens assisting the police department, were the keys to solving the case,” he said.
They were both taken to Peterson Juvenile Hall in Stockton.