Two people were arrested and two got away when Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies responded to two calls Wednesday morning regarding attempted theft of farm/ranch equipment.
The first incident occurred between midnight and 1 a.m. Wednesday, said Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Donnie Schwandt. An alarm at Garton Tractor on McHenry Avenue south of Ladd Road alerted a security company.
Responding deputies saw two suspects and set up a perimeter, Schwandt said. The two were trying to steal two Kubota RTV utility vehicles, valued at about $14,000 apiece, said Garton’s service manager, Michael Vargas.
The vehicles were chained within the business’s gated compound, but the would-be thieves must have climbed the fence and cut the chains, Vargas said.
One suspect saw a deputy, tried to ride off on the utility vehicle but crashed into a fence, Schwandt said. The suspect ran away and managed to escape.
The other suspect was trying to start his vehicle when a deputy apprehended him, said the sergeant. Modesto resident Anthony Humphrey, 36, was arrested on suspicion of attempted auto theft, criminal conspiracy and possession of burglary tools, said Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Anthony Bejaran.
There was no information immediately available on the second suspect or a getaway vehicle.
About 9 a.m. Wednesday, deputies responded to a report of a tractor theft in progress at a ranch near Albers Road and the Oakdale-Waterford Highway.
Employees of the ranch saw two suspicious people driving a tractor through the property and recognized that it belonged to a neighboring farm. They called 911 and started to follow the tractor as it was driven into a almond orchard, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The driver, later identified as 31-year-old Kirk Robbins of Keyes, and a woman got off the tractor and ran. With help from neighbors, the ranch employees caught Robbins and held him until deputies arrived, the Sheriff’s Department reported. The woman got away.
The attempted theft did about $5,000 in damage to the almond orchard and also damaged the $80,000 tractor, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Robbins was arrested on suspicion of tractor theft and vandalism and on a parole violation.
Deputies continue to seek the woman, who is described as a white adult with red hair. She was wearing blue jeans and a camouflage shirt.
A warning of farm equipment thefts also was posted on the Oakdale Area Incident Feed page on Facebook on Tuesday. Group member Lisa Guerrero posted a photo of what she said was a Chevy Tahoe. It looks to be on a canal embankment and pulling a flatbed pickup.
“BOLO, early 2000s Chevy Tahoe, billet grill, aftermarket wheels, occupied by 2 Hispanic males (1 heavyset and 1 slim build) stealing farm/ranch equipment and attempted to steal the white pickup in the photo,” Guerrero wrote. “Very aggressive and bold even at gunpoint.”
She wrote that the men have been seen in the areas of East Milnes Road, east Modesto, Waterford and Oakdale.
Other group members said they likely encountered the same men, who “aren’t afraid of being confronted” and in a couple of cases nearly rammed other vehicles to get away.
Anyone with information on the attempted thefts from Garton Tractor or the ranch near Albers Road is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. Tipsters can email through the Crime Stoppers website, www.stancrimetips.org, or text tips to 274637 by typing “Tip704” plus a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327