California Highway Patrol officers on Friday morning used a spike strip to stop a public transit bus stolen from a San Francisco bus terminal and taken on a four-county joy ride.
The officers arrested the driver, 29-year-old Justin Moss of San Francisco, on suspicion of vehicle theft, driving recklessly while evading police and possessing stolen property. No one else was on the bus when authorities caught up to it on Highway 120 between Escalon and Oakdale.
Officer James Smith, a spokesman from the CHP's Stockton office, said that about 9:50 a.m., the office was notified to be on the lookout for the stolen Alameda-Contra Costa Transit bus.
An officer responded and spotted the bus heading east on Highway 120 near Highway 99 in Manteca. Smith said the CHP waited for the bus to head north on Highway 99 before officers tried to pull it over, because officers were worried about the safety of road construction workers nearby.
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The bus exited Highway 99 at French Camp Road, and officers attempted to get the driver to stop. Smith said the bus continued southeast on French Camp at speeds faster than the posted limit.
The pursuit continued when the bus then turned left onto Highway 120, heading east toward Escalon. Smith said the officers set up the spike strip in the center of town, where the highway crosses North McHenry Avenue.
The bus went over the spike strip near the Escalon intersection, puncturing its right front tire and right exterior rear tire. The bus, however, continued east until the tires lost air and it stopped along the right side of Highway 120, just west of Cleveland Avenue and east of the Stanislaus County line.
Smith said the chase went on for about 19 miles and lasted about 20 minutes. The officers took Moss into custody without further incident.
AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson told CBS affiliate KPIX 5 that the bus was stolen from the San Francisco terminal about 9 a.m. Friday. The bus had a GPS device, which the CHP used to track it.
Johnson told the TV news station that there are protocols that need to be followed to board a bus, start the ignition and drive off. He said AC Transit assumes the person who stole the bus had some knowledge of those protocols.
Allen Perry, a road supervisor with AC Transit, told the Manteca Bulletin newspaper that the 40-foot bus had been in service during the early morning commute, then parked at the temporary terminal and put on standby to fill in when needed.
Perry, who lives in Tracy, was off duty Friday and was heading to an auto parts store when he heard about the stolen bus. He drove out to the area, spotted the bus on the highway and followed it before CHP officers arrived and started their pursuit.
He told the Manteca newspaper the bus was going to be towed back to San Francisco, where it will be repaired and checked for safety before being placed back into service.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.