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High-speed chase suspects caught, police sergeant puts out fire

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 11:40 am

Two men who Lodi police officers say led them on a high-speed chase along Highway 99 are in custody after they lost control of their vehicle and it crashed into a chain-link fence in Stockton on Thursday.

Around 9:10 a.m., officers responded to Home Depot in Lodi’s Reynolds Ranch Parkway after they received a report that two men were attempting to break into vehicles, Lodi Police Sgt. Eric Versteeg said.

As officers arrived, the pair got into a sedan and began driving away. When officers tried to stop the vehicle on the Harney Lane on-ramp to Highway 99, the men sped away, Versteeg said.

Officers followed the vehicle onto Highway 99, heading south and reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour during a 5-minute chase.

The suspects attempted to exit the highway via the Morada Lane off-ramp in Stockton, Versteeg said. But with the vehicle traveling too fast, the suspects lost control, drove over a curb and crashed into a chain-link fence, according to officers on the scene.

Both men fled the vehicle, police said, then jumped a nearby fence and tried to lose the officers on foot in a large shopping plaza. But officers were close behind and quickly arrested both men without any more trouble, Versteeg said.

Cristian Ochoa and Daniel Magana, both 19, were booked into the Lodi Police Department Jail on suspicion of burglary, obstructing an officer, evading police and hit-and-run causing property damage.

As officers tended to both suspects, Versteeg was left alone at the scene of the crash when a grass fire erupted underneath the vehicle. Without any means to extinguish the fire, Versteeg went into the car, trying to save any potential stolen goods in the event that the flames caused the car to explode.

Minutes later, the driver of a cement truck carrying a hose and 95 gallons of water pulled over and offered assistance to Versteeg.

“I just saw the smoke and thought I’d help out,” said the self-described Good Samaritan, who wanted to remain anonymous.

With the hose in hand, Versteeg quickly extinguished the fire. Firefighters from the Waterloo-Morada Fire Department arrived minutes later to find the flames nearly quenched.

Officers then sorted through the property recovered from the vehicle and noted the items they believe had been stolen from the Home Depot parking lot.

They found one Nokia cellphone and returned it to the owner.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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