December 8, 2007

Capture of naked man 'was a mess'

One of two Modesto men who tackled a naked escapee to the ground Thursday morning said the whole experience was like "something you see on TV."

"It was a mess," said Jeff Garmon, 55. The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department initially said Garmon was 80 years old.

"I had him in a chokehold on the ground in front of my house," said Richard Downing, 53. "He put up a heck of a fight."

Garmon lives in the 400 block of West Orangeburg Avenue near Doctors Medical Center, where a man under sheriff's deputy supervision escaped early Thursday. Garmon said he awoke about 4 a.m. to four solid kicks on his door that made his whole house shake. He went downstairs to see what caused it.

"I didn't know whether to take my gun or my cell phone," said Garmon, a Vietnam veteran who lost one of his legs in 1999 after he developed a blood clot while he was in the hospital following a heart attack. "I took my cell phone."

He didn't see anything when he peered outside. About 5 a.m. Garmon heard more noise and went next door to investigate. He was with Downing, in Downing's back yard, when Downing's wife, Valery, screamed.

When Garmon went inside, a naked man, later identified as Jeremy Alan Lucas, 27, of Mo-desto was standing in the kitchen with the Downings. The men got Lucas outside, breaking some Christmas lights as they chased him.

"We got on top of him and held him until the cavalry got here," Garmon said. Garmon managed to get a gun from his home to help control Lucas. Modesto police eventually arrived, called by one of the men's wives, and got Lucas into a patrol car after a struggle.

Lucas had been at Doctors Medical Center after an incident over the weekend during which, according to sheriff's spokesman Royjindar Singh, Lucas pushed his car into a canal, broke into a home, called 911 and waited for officers while holding a butcher knife.

"(Lucas) was out there, no doubt," Garmon said. "It's something I won't forget for a long time."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached ateraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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