In the span of about 30 minutes Monday night, residents of a quiet court off Morris Avenue in Modesto went from being terrorized by a bloodied, feces-smeared man to seeing him taken to a hospital, where he was in critical condition Tuesday.
Officers responding to more than a half-dozen 911 calls of a man apparently under the influence and forcing his way into homes used physical control holds, beanbag guns and a Taser to apprehend the suspect.
Once in handcuffs, the man suffered a medical emergency for which he required CPR, according to Modesto Police Department spokeswoman Heather Graves.
Six officers are on paid administrative leave as the case is being considered an “officer-involved critical incident.”
Grantland Court resident Robert Fenrich was feeling “just very nervous, cautious” Tuesday afternoon following an ordeal that kept him up all night.
He and his wife had just gone to bed a bit after 10 p.m. when he heard heavy breathing coming from the backyard and got up to check. The sound quickly changed to someone trying to break through a back door, Fenrich said. The Fenriches locked themselves in the master bathroom and dialed 911, and his wife’s cousin, who also lives in the house, locked herself in her bedroom.
“He broke through the window of the back door and literally came through the window of the door,” Fenrich said.
The family could hear him moving about the house and believes he likely left and came back. He climbed on their bed, tore the blinds from a window above the headboard, broke out the screen and apparently exited at one point, Fenrich said.
“My wife’s cousin … heard him say, ‘Where am I? What is this place?’ ”
Fenrich stayed on the line with a police dispatcher, who relayed to officers on the scene what the family was hearing. “They were trying to determine where he’d gone,” he said.
One place he went – and the timeline is unclear – was the backyard of the Fenriches’ next-door neighbor Justin Maggio, an off-duty probation officer. He heard his gate open and slam against a bedroom wall. “The guy was yelling, ‘Help me,’ ” said Maggio, who called 911 and stayed inside as he heard the man moving around. When it was clear he’d left his yard and moved down the street, Maggio went out front.
Seeing the man naked and covered in blood and feces, “I said, ‘Are you OK, sir?’ He made eye contact and charged me.”
Maggio said he fought with the man about two minutes, holding him off with his left hand while he guarded his holstered firearm with his right. “He kept throwing punches,” Maggio said, adding that the man knocked off his glasses and knocked his phone from his hand.
Maggio described the man as at least 6 feet tall, and neither heavy nor skinny. “He was whacked out; he was strong,” he said, noting it later took six officers to subdue the man.
The man ran down the street as police cars arrived, Maggio said. He lost track of where the man went, but he was taken into custody at the Fenrich house.
Officers had surrounded the residence. Due to the reports that the suspect was behaving bizarrely and might be under the influence, emergency medical crews were requested to respond as well, police said in a news release.
With his permission over the phone, officers broke down his front door, Fenrich said. As the officers began to order the suspect to surrender, the man ran out the front door and tackled one of the officers, taking the officer to the ground, police said.
The suspect continued to violently thrash about, as the officers tried to restrain him, Graves said. In addition to physical control holds, officers used beanbag rounds and a Taser before he was handcuffed.
Maggio said he heard officers yelling “Just give up, we don’t want to hurt you.”
Though none of the neighbors recognized the man, Fenrich said, “Officers said they knew him by name. He was a regular,” meaning they’d dealt with him often.
As emergency medical staff were preparing to transport the suspect, he suffered the medical emergency. Because the suspect was in custody, the case is being treated as an officer-involved critical incident and criminal and administrative investigations have begun.
No officers suffered any major injuries, Graves said. They were placed on paid administrative leave, which, as with an officer-involved shooting, is a standard procedure in this type of investigation.
Graves said some of those officers might be removed from leave as detectives continue to investigate the specifics of the incident and who was directly involved.
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