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July 31, 2012

Stinky situation: Man hides from deputies in south Modesto septic tank

To avoid arrest, a man in south Modesto crawled through a small hole in the ground and into a septic tank behind a motel on Ninth Street on Tuesday.

To avoid arrest, a man in south Modesto crawled through a small hole in the ground and into a septic tank behind a motel on Ninth Street on Tuesday.

About 8 a.m., Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the Ninth Street Bridge for a report of a man obstructing traffic, Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said.

They found him several blocks south of the bridge, lying in the parking lot in front of the Arrow Inn.

As the deputies approached, the man got up and ran behind the motel, where they temporarily lost sight of him.

Then one of the deputies noticed a small hole in the ground, next to which was a concrete cover. The hole was no more than 18 inches in diameter, but the man had wriggled his way through it and into the septic tank below.

The opening to the septic tank normally is obscured, and Bejaran believes the man previously pegged it as a hiding space or perhaps even had used it in the past.

"He had to have known it was there," he said. "I can't see that being a spur-of-the-moment decision."

Ceres firefighters responded to the scene to extricate the man, but he didn't want to be rescued.

Battalion Chief Bryan Hunt estimates that the tank is about 7 feet deep and said the liquid inside it reached the man's shoulders.

Hunt said firefighters and deputies tried various negotiation methods to coax the man from the tank.

Potential for disease

Hunt warned him about the potential for contracting a disease. He offered him a rope to hoist him up and promised to hose him off when he was out.

The man declined and stayed "verbally combative" during the 30 minutes crews were on the scene, Hunt said. He told authorities he would leave the septic tank only if his mother told him to do so. Hunt called the man's mother and put her on speaker phone.

The man's mother sent his stepfather to the scene, at which point he emerged from the ground, lit a cigarette and refused to be hosed off.

Deputies chose not to arrest the man, but instead released him to his stepfather, who promised to take him to a hospital.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209) 578-2366.

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