With the help of a police dog named Max, Lodi police officers arrested two suspects in an early morning car theft on Tuesday, according to Lt. Chris Jacobson.
At 4:19 a.m., police received a call about a 2002 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck stolen from a home on Virginia Avenue in Lodi. While one officer headed to the residence to take the report, Officer Mike Mantzouranis heard the vehicle's description — and saw a truck matching that description driving along Lower Sacramento Road near Turner Road.
Mantzouranis followed the truck west on Turner Road, then north on Davis, until enough officers had come in for back-up that they could attempt to pull the vehicle over.
The driver and passenger chose to stop the car on Davis Road, but police said they took off again when officers asked them to leave the vehicle.
Officers pursued the truck for a mile and a half, out to Woodbridge. The truck crashed into a low brick wall, and police said the driver and passenger fled on foot.
That's when Max came out and got to work.
According to police, K-9 Officer Chris Delgado ordered both suspects to stop, and released the dog after several warnings. The passenger, who police identified as Anthony Fugazi, 18, of Lodi, was located by the dog and captured within minutes.
Next, officers sealed the area and performed a perimeter search. Meanwhile, a call came in from a resident in Woodbridge who said a strange man was running through their backyard.
"That definitely helped narrow it down," Jacobson said.
After a few backyards were searched in the early morning light, police said Max tracked down the driver in a large bush in the yard of a home on Crystal Court in Woodbridge.
"This was a huge, thick bush. It was seven feet tall, 10 feet in circumference. It was dense," Jacobson said.
Jacobson said this created a dangerous situation for officers, since it was impossible to see whether the suspect had weapons on him.
In an attempt to get away from the dog, police said the driver tried to climb higher inside the bush and got stuck. Officers borrowed pruning shears from a neighbor to cut the man out of the shrub, and even removed part of a nearby fence.
After much ado, Daniel Goff, 22, of Lodi, was arrested. Both Goff and Fugazi face felony charges of stealing a vehicle, evading arrest, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools, including lockpicks and shaved keys.
The truck sustained minor damage to its front bumper and was returned to its owners within hours.
Jacobson said Max put in a good day's work.
"He did a really good job out there for us. That bush was so large, we would still be out there chasing them. We could hear (the driver), and hear the dog, but we couldn't see either of them," he said.