CERES — Authorities continue to piece together clues to a crime spree that started with several armed robberies, led to fleeing suspects firing at a pursuing sheriff's deputy on Highway 99 and ended in a crash and shootout early Monday.
About 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Modesto police broadcast a description of a car that had been used minutes earlier during two armed robberies on Yosemite Boulevard, said Stanislaus County sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Bejaran. Shortly after the broadcast, a sheriff's deputy spotted the sedan near Yosemite and D Street.
The deputy chased the vehicle through Modesto to Ceres on southbound Highway 99. During the chase, at least one suspect fired a gun several times at the pursuing deputy.
The driver of the car, which turned out to be stolen from Atwater, lost control at high speed when he attempted to take the Whitmore Avenue offramp and drove down an embankment.
After the crash, the suspects shot again at the deputy, who returned fire.
Bullets struck the deputy's patrol car, but neither he nor the suspects were hit, according to Ceres Police Department spokeswoman Carissa Higginbotham.
Ceres and Modesto police officers and the California Highway Patrol responded to help search for the suspects. They found one hiding on the west side of the freeway not far from where the vehicle crashed about 12:30 a.m.
Ceres SWAT officers found the second suspect two hours later, hiding in bushes outside a business about three blocks south of the crash on Railroad Avenue.
During the search and investigation, both lanes of southbound Highway 99 were closed from 11:30 p.m. to 1:50 a.m. from Hatch Road to Whitmore. The northbound lanes from Mitchell Road to Whitmore were closed for about an hour starting at 12:30 a.m.
Ceres police, the agency investigating the shooting, would not release the suspects' names. But booking records show David Sandoval Lomeli and Gugandeep Singh, both 22, were booked early Monday on suspicion of attempted murder, robbery, conspiracy, evading, hit-and-run and resisting arrest.
Two stores robbed
The robberies the men are suspected of committing in Modesto were carried out within minutes of each other late Sunday. The first was reported at 11:21 p.m. at Dry Creek Liquors at 3801 Yosemite. As Modesto police responded to the store, dispatchers took a report of a second robbery at the Stop and Shop at 3121 Yosemite.
During the robberies, two armed men took cash from store clerks. The stolen car used during the robberies has been linked to previous armed robberies, Higginbotham said.
Bejaran said he is not yet releasing the name of the deputy involved in the shooting but said he is an 11-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department. The deputy is on paid administrative leave, which is standard protocol in an officer-involved shooting.
Ceres police ask anyone with information to call Detective Derek Perry at (209) 538-5730. Tipsters can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636, emailing at www.modestopolice.com/ CrimeStoppers, or texting tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus a message and be eligible for a reward.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.