A Tracy Fire Department Battalion Chief’s command vehicle stolen from the scene of an emergency medical call on MacArthur Drive shortly after 1 a.m. Monday was recovered by Manteca police some 30 minutes later with the help of a Manteca fire engine that slowed the vehicle at the AutoZone parking lot in the 100 block of South Main Street.
Manteca firefighter Brian Swift said his crew had just completed a medical call in the 100 block of Maple Avenue behind the former location of the Bank of the West, now the India Merchandise Store, for a patient in a homeless encampment who was transported by ambulance to the hospital. They were in the process of turning their fire truck around when they ended up becoming involved in efforts to recover the stolen fire vehicle.
Swift said he heard numerous sirens coming into the parking lot area with a number of police cars chasing a vehicle. Unable to see the vehicle in his mirror, he cautiously turned his engine partially to the side that forced the battalion chief’s stolen 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe to slow down to confused the driver. He said his action apparently allowed the pursuing officers to catch up and ram the fleeing vehicle and take the driver out at gunpoint.
Manteca Battalion Chief Chris Jelinek said it was just by chance that the Manteca crew from Station 3 was in the alley parking lot at that time of the night on a medical call.
Arrested at the scene was Adrian Lopez-Flores, 32, of Manteca who was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp. He was charged with theft of an “on-call” emergency vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, evading officers with disregard for public safety and for driving with a suspended license.
On discovering the battalion chief’s vehicle was stolen at 1 a.m., Tracy fire personnel immediately notified the Emergency Communications Center where dispatchers were able to track the unit’s location via a global positioning satellite technology within the vehicle. Through the law enforcement coordination between the Tracy and Manteca police departments and the immediate action of Manteca officers, the vehicle was recovered and the suspect apprehended.
“We are thankful that our staff is safe and was unharmed in the incident. We are grateful to both agencies for their quick response and recovery of the vehicle,” said interim Tracy Fire Chief David Bramell. “We are reviewing department procedures and taking measures to ensure this type of incident cannot occur again,” he said.
Lopez-Flores is being held in county jail in lieu of $225,000 bail and is scheduled to appear Wednesday in the Manteca Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court at 1:25 p.m.