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Copters & K9s Weekend Calls Bring Multi Agency Response
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The beating of an Escalon police officer early morning Saturday morning during a traffic stop brought mutual aid from Manteca and Ripon police departments as well as the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department.

Just hours before, Escalon had seen the culmination of a "shots fired" pursuit that ended there after three subjects were involved in a car burglary at the Bass Pro Shops on Highway 120 in Manteca with the victims chasing them toward Escalon around 9 p.m. on Friday.

Information provided by the Manteca Police Department indicated that the vehicle was occupied by three subjects suspected of burglarizing a vehicle in Manteca. The victims of that burglary pursued the suspects and the suspects fired several shots at the victims while being chased on the highway, according to police. Officers from Ripon and Manteca joined the pursuit and Escalon officers also joined in when the vehicles involved entered the city limits. The suspects eventually drove into a residential area of La Mesa and San Miguel.

When police blocked the way, two of the three suspects were apprehended but the third fled on foot into a cornfield. Two people were arrested, one with assistance from a Manteca K9 unit, and a police helicopter was brought in to search for the third suspect. That third suspect was not located and the search was terminated shortly before 11 p.m. Friday.

Property belonging to the victims was recovered when the pursuit ended and the suspected shooter, who fired back at the victims, was identified as a 14-year-old from Stockton. The driver was identified as Ruben Valdez, 18, of Stockton. He was booked into San Joaquin County Jail for felony charges of evading the police with disregard for public safety. The 14-year-old was booked into the Juvenile Justice Center for several felonies including assault with a deadly weapon.

The shift did not get any quieter, with an early morning call on Saturday resulting in injuries to one of Escalon's officers.

Police said Officer Rob Lackey pulled over a vehicle outside Escalon at Highway 120 and Wagner Road shortly after 2 a.m. after receiving reports of reckless driving. When he attempted to arrest the driver a struggle ensued and both men reportedly went to the ground. The suspect got to his feet after the officer had turned his knee and reportedly struck the officer on top of his head with his fist, according to interim Escalon Police Chief Jim Shaw.

Officer Lackey then reportedly fired his Taser at the suspect, but it had no effect and the motorist disappeared, running off into the darkness. Some 30 officers had responded to the "officer needs help" call with police cars driving into Escalon from every direction.

The suspect later knocked on the door of a rural farmhouse asking for a ride to Manteca, but he was turned down by the resident, police said.

Chief Shaw said the suspect had traveled some seven miles before he was tracked to Jack Tone Road and Highway 120 at about 4 a.m. where Manteca officer Eddie Cardenas searched the area with the "FLIR" forward linear infrared device and picked up the outline of the suspect's body in the predawn hours from the heat his body generated. He was out in a field at that location.

Officer Cardenas and other officers were successful in apprehending the suspect, Joshua Watkins, 25, of Manteca. Watkins fell into a canal during a portion of the chase and was taken to a hospital for the injuries he had sustained, and was later released to the Escalon Police Department.

Lackey was taken to Oak Valley Hospital in Oakdale for treatment of his injuries.

Chief Shaw had nothing but praise for the way the several agencies came to the aid of his officer.

"It was a very, very connected effort. We had a blue parade (of police cars) and it was heartfelt," he said.

The chief also commended Officer Lackey as being "a great officer who is very involved in the community. I have great respect for how he handles himself in his public relations," he said.

Along with the weekend incident, Chief Shaw said the city has also seen a steep rise in burglaries at the Simply Self Storage yard on First Street, with the business now bank owned. Anyone who has a unit there should be aware of the problem, said Shaw, and make regular stops to check on the safety of their property.

In the past week, Chief Shaw said, more than a half dozen burglaries were reported at the site, and residents in the area are being asked to help by reporting any suspicious vehicles or subjects in the area. The most recent rash of break-ins occurred during the day, with the suspects punching in a number of codes before gaining access and using a U-Haul truck to make off with other people's property.

Contact the police department at 691-7300 or CrimeStoppers at 521-4636 with information.

Manteca Bulletin reporter Glenn Kahl contributed to this story.