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Highway Crash Claims Officer
One Arrested

A late night collision on Highway 120 at Brennan Road on Saturday, Aug. 20 resulted in the death of one Escalon man and the arrest of another.

The victim, identified as Justin Kepler, 28, of Escalon was an officer with the Stockton Police Department. He was riding his personal motorcycle, a 2013 Victory, eastbound on Highway 120 shortly after 10 pm. Saturday when the crash occurred.

According to the California Highway Patrol report, Kepler was eastbound on Highway 120 at an unknown speed, approaching the intersection with Brennan Road. At the same time, a man identified as Isidro Urista-Meza, 27, of Escalon was driving a 1993 Chevrolet northbound on Brennan. Authorities said it’s not known if Urista-Meza stopped at the stop sign on Brennan, but he proceeded northbound into the intersection and pulled directly into the path of the oncoming motorcycle.

Kepler was unable to avoid striking the Chevrolet, the front end of his motorcycle hitting the driver’s side front fender of the truck. Kepler was then ejected from the motorcycle and was pronounced dead at the scene from his injuries.

Urista-Meza fled the scene on foot, but was later located and arrested. He was booked into San Joaquin County Jail on charges of felony hit and run, being an unlicensed driver and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. CHP officials said alcohol or drugs were not a factor in the collision.

Arraignment for Urista-Meza was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23, after press time for The Times.

Kepler had worked for the Stockton Police Department for more than four years.

A statement was released by that department on Sunday: “It is with a profound sense of sadness that we must report the tragic death of Officer Justin Kepler. Last night, Officer Kepler was struck and killed by a hit and run driver while riding his personal motorcycle in Escalon. The suspect was subsequently arrested. Our thoughts and prayers are with Officer Kepler’s family and friends. Officer Kepler was hired by the Stockton Police Department on April 16, 2012.”