The arrest of a Modesto Christian School senior accused of a string of armed robberies is "heartbreaking," the school's principal and superintendent said Thursday.
Ceres resident Davion Dangelo Gates, 18, was arrested early Sunday by police in Modesto's neighboring city to the south. He has been charged with three counts of robbery and two of attempted robbery, Ceres Police Department spokesman Sgt. Greg Yotsuya said in a news release.
About 12:45 a.m. Sunday, officers were dispatched to the QuikStop market on the 1300 block of Service Road when a clerk reported that someone had tried to get through the locked front door. The store was locked because the clerk was on break.
"When he got to the front door, no one was there," Yotsuya said. "The clerk felt this was suspicious, as customers usually wait for him to come to the door to unlock it."
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Surveillance video showed a black male adult wearing a dark, hooded jacket with white stripes down the sleeves and gray pants trying to get into the store. Unsuccessful, he walked away.
The clerk told police a male wearing the same clothing but also a white mask tried to enter the store the night before around the same time and found the door locked, then left.
"Officers decided to stay in the area to see if the suspect would return," Yotsuya said. "Just under an hour later, a male matching the physical and clothing description from earlier was observed walking towards the front of the store."
When officers pulled into the parking lot, Gates saw them and ran. After a short foot pursuit, he was captured. He had dropped a handgun as he ran, which was recovered.
"We love Davion — we are stunned by the news," Modesto Christian School Superintendent High School Principal Jonathan Burton said. "We're completely surprised, because this is not at all in line with the character he has shown here at school. We are still trying to make sense of it."
Gates has played wide receiver and defensive back for the Modesto Christian High School football team and made The Bee's 2017 All-Stanislaus District Team for small-school defense.
In August 2017, he was among The Bee's "players to watch." The article notes, "Gates rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season despite sharing carries with four-year standout Chris Brown. Gates finished his junior season with 1,036 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he averaged nearly 9.6 yards per carry."
After his QuikStop arrest, "investigators have since linked Gates to several other armed robberies of convenience stores throughout Ceres," Yotsuya said. "... Investigators are working diligently to see if he was involved in other robberies in the area."
Modesto police spokeswoman Heather Graves said Thursday that detectives with her department currently don't have enough evidence to connect Gates to robberies here.
"We hope indeed there is some error" and Gates is innocent, Burton said, "but we also know the police are doing their job and carefully investigating. We're cooperating with the investigation, and our hearts and prayers are for Davion and his family and of course the victims of the robberies."
The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department jail report online does not show Gates in custody. The county's Superior Court case index shows a pretrial hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Anyone with information on the robberies is asked to contact Ceres police Detective Julio Amador at 209-538-5729. Tips also may be made anonymously to Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. Tipsters can email through the Crime Stoppers website, www.stancrimetips.org.