BANK ROBBERY SUSPECT CAUGHT: Stanislaus County sheriff's officials arrested a man suspected of robbing a bank and leading authorities on a high-speed chase through Riverbank on Friday afternoon before he crashed his sport utility vehicle in a cornfield not far from where the robbery took place. Johnny Ames, 36, was arrested on suspicion of bank robbery and felony evading, deputy Royjindar Singh said. Ames suffered minor injuries in the crash and was taken by ambulance to Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, Singh said. The robbery occurred about 4:40 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Bank at 2213 Claribel Road, in the Crossroads shopping center at Oakdale and Claribel roads. Singh said the robber walked into the bank with a shotgun and demanded money from a teller. He got the money and walked out. Bank employees saw the gunman flee in a dark-colored Ford Explorer and relayed the description to police dispatchers. Sheriff's Sgt. Erin Kiley was patrolling in downtown Riverbank when he spotted a vehicle matching the description. When he tried to pull it over, the SUV sped away to the west and ended up heading south on Oakdale Road, back toward the bank, Singh said. The driver threw a shotgun out the window during the chase; it was later recovered, Singh said. Some of the Ford's tires were punctured by a spike strip on Oakdale Road at Candlewood Place, but the fleeing vehicle continued south until it crashed just west of the Crossroads shopping center. Investigators recovered the bag with the money, Singh said.
DETECTIVES WANT TO QUESTION MAN: Sheriff's detectives on Friday afternoon were looking for the third man involved in a fight over a woman that escalated to a shooting Wednesday and led to a standoff with authorities in Riverbank on Thursday. William Garrett, 19, left, was supposed to meet detectives Thursday for questioning, but never showed up, said deputy Royjindar Singh, a Stanislaus County sheriff's spokesman. Detectives said Garrett was fighting with Jason Lee, 35, of Riverbank on Wednesday. Garrett's friend, Robert Michael Cortez, 28, of Riverbank, entered the altercation with a shotgun and fired at Lee, according to detectives. Cortez fled and was apprehended Thursday after a four-hour standoff with a sheriff's Special Weapons and Tactics team. Singh said Garrett's last known address was in Keyes, but detectives believe he is hiding out in Riverbank. The Sheriff's Department asks anyone with information on Garrett's whereabouts to call Detective Mark Copeland at 652-1792 or CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers to CrimeStoppers can leave an anonymous tip and be eligible for a cash reward.
ALCOHOL SALES STINGS TO CONTINUE: Decoy operations to bust adults buying alcohol for minors will continue throughout Stanislaus County with more state money for law enforcement agencies. The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control awarded a $125,000 grant to the Modesto Police Department to increase compliance with laws that make it illegal to sell alcohol to people younger than 21. Modesto police oversee the grant, and other Stanislaus County law enforcement agencies participate in the decoy operations in which undercover 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds go to liquor and convenience stores. The decoys indiscriminately ask adults to buy them a six-pack of beer, which is called an undercover "shoulder tap" operation. The Modesto Police Department has received the grant in previous years and has had success in increasing the number of businesses and adults who are acting responsibly, said Detective Jim Rokaitis, who manages the grant. During the 2006-07 fiscal year, officers determined that 17 percent of adults contacted during shoulder tap operations provided alcohol to the undercover minors and 14 percent of businesses contacted sold alcohol to undercover minors. Those numbers were down from the 2005-06 fiscal year when 40 percent of adults and just over 23 percent of businesses provided alcohol to undercover minors, according to Modesto police. "Our goal is that no businesses or adults will let alcohol get into the hands of kids," Rokaitis wrote in a news release. "We would be very happy if everyone acted responsibly and we weren't able to write one citation this year." The grant also helps fund educational seminars for businesses and employees who sell alcohol, as well as training for officers and community outreach presentations discussing alcohol and minors.
WOMAN WHO DIED IN JAIL IDENTIFIED: The Stanislaus County coroner's office has identified a woman found dead in her cell Tuesday at the Public Safety Center as Carlin Burt, 36, of Modesto. She also went by the name Carla Herrera, according to the coroner's office. A deputy conducting rounds found her on the ground in her cell at 4:40 p.m. She was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, where she was pronounced dead, deputy Royjindar Singh said. The cause of Burt's death is pending while the coroner's office waits for toxicology screening results. Sheriff's homicide detectives are investigating the death, which is protocol when someone dies while in custody, Singh said. Burt was arrested Sept. 2 and was awaiting trial on drug possession and probation violation charges, he said.
FIRE DAMAGES MODESTO HOME: An early morning fire destroyed a garage and damaged a Modesto home Friday. Battalion Chief Richard Sasser said the 1:30 a.m. blaze caused an estimated $50,000 worth of damage at 1310 Larkin Ave. and left nine people homeless. The investigation into the cause continues.
PEDESTRIAN SHOT IN LEG: A man was shot in the leg Thursday night while walking near Herndon and Nadine avenues in Ceres, sheriff's officials said. The man suffered a nonlife-threatening injury and was taken to a nearby hospital by a friend, deputy Royjindar Singh said. Although the shooting occurred about 7:30 p.m., it was not reported until 11 p.m. after the man went to the hospital, Singh said. The victim was walking alone when a gold sedan pulled up alongside him. Singh said the occupants in the car asked the man if he was "a homeboy" and pulled away. The car returned a few minutes later, and shots were fired.