Two Modesto men are in jail, suspected in a rash of downtown burglaries, and a warrant was issued for a hospitalized third man in connection with a commercial burglary in northeast Modesto.
One man was caught by a business owner tunneling his way into a dental lab from a restroom early Tuesday, the owner said, and two others were arrested by undercover property crime detectives conducting a burglary operation Tuesday night, police said.
The owner of the dental lab, who asked to be identified only as Rick, said he arrived at work in the 3600 block of Coffee Road just before 6 a.m. He heard someone inside, so he quietly unlocked the front door.
“I heard pounding and unlocked the door and I could see the hole in the wall and the light coming through it,” Rick said.
The man, later identified by authorities as 41-year-old Jason Estep, had not seen Rick, who left and called 911.
Modesto police spokeswoman Heather Graves said Estep ran when officers arrived, so they gave chase. One officer deployed his Taser but it missed Estep, so a police dog was used to detain him a block south of the business at Sylvan Meadows Drive.
Several dental offices share the small complex with the dental lab and provide a common restroom for customers that is accessed through a breezeway. Metal gates at both ends of the breezeway are locked when the businesses are closed.
“The gates had been jimmied with over the weekend,” Rick said, and the door to the men’s restroom had been broken into, presumably with a screwdriver Rick said he found later Tuesday morning.
Graves said Estep also was found with a crowbar, which might have been used to punch through the drywall between the bathroom and the lab.
Estep was taken to a local hospital to be treated for the dog bite to his leg, but Graves said he was kept there for a pre-existing condition.
Modesto police released Estep for hospitalization but issued a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of burglary and possession of burglary tools.
Graves said several other commercial burglaries in northeast Modesto have been committed in the same fashion. Detectives are investigating whether Estep was involved in those.
The northeast Modesto area is one of several hit hard by burglaries recently.
To nab some of the serial burglars, property crime detectives went undercover on downtown surveillance Tuesday night.
About 10:45 p.m., several detectives heard the sound of breaking glass and saw two people running from a massage and relaxation spa in the 600 block of 13th Street.
After a short chase, detectives apprehended 24-year-old Nicholas Mason, Graves said. The second man continued running to 12th Street, where he managed to make his way to the roof of a business, Graves said.
Officers could be heard telling the man, whom they identified as 34-year-old Terrell Jenkins, to surrender or a police dog would be used to apprehend him.
Modesto Regional Fire Authority firefighters assisted officers by using their ladder truck, which Jenkins was instructed to crawl down.
Mason and Jenkins, both of Modesto, were arrested on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property and conspiracy. Detectives linked the pair to a half dozen other burglaries in the downtown area, Graves said.
Anyone with any information on criminal activity is urged to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward. Tipsters can text information to 274637; type “TIP704” along with the message.