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Turlock bank holdup ends in Ceres crash

CERES — Police arrested one man Friday and are looking for another after a bank robbery in Turlock, a high-speed chase on Highway 99 and a head-on crash in Ceres.

Police arrested Ronald Gregory August Jr., 31, of Stockton on suspicion of armed robbery, bank robbery and recklessly evading police, said Sgt. Sue Steele, a Turlock police spokeswoman. Detectives were questioning August on Friday night.

August was driving a white Pontiac Vibe with Arizona license plates before it crashed with a van in Ceres, Steele said.

His passenger eluded police by running from the accident. He was described as a black man in his 20s, about 6 feet 1 inch tall, 120 pounds and wearing a gray, hooded sweat shirt, a white T-shirt, blue jeans, white tennis shoes and a dark baseball cap.

He should be considered armed and dangerous, although he was not seen carrying a weapon when he fled from police officers, said Michele Houston, a Ceres police spokeswoman.

After the wreck, August jumped over a fence and tried to hide in a drainage ditch, but officers spotted and arrested him, Houston said.

She said police found a replica of an assault rifle and a handgun inside the Pontiac.

Dogs help in search

Police, Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers sealed off three blocks between East Whitmore Avenue and Magnolia Street and between Fourth Street and Central Avenue. Dogs helped search the ground, and a sheriff's helicopter circled above.

The bank robbery occurred at Citibank at 2000 Geer Road in Turlock. About 4:55 p.m., police started receiving calls from people who saw two men wearing masks walk into the bank — one armed with a rifle and the other carrying a handgun, Steele said.

The robbers walked up to two bank tellers and demanded money. The bandits walked out with an undisclosed amount of cash, Steele said. No shots were fired, and no injuries were reported.

One witness followed the robbers after they got into a white Acura Integra but lost them after they switched cars and got into the Pontiac.

A Turlock police officer spotted the Pontiac as it headed west on Hawkeye Avenue near Golden State Boulevard. Steele said the officer attempted to make a stop, but the Pontiac sped away, reaching speeds of 100 mph northbound on Highway 99.

Three hurt in crash

The crash that ended the chase occurred shortly after 5 p.m. just south of East Whitmore Avenue and east of Highway 99. While trying to get off the highway, the vehicle collided head-on with a van on Whitmore Place near El Camino Avenue, Houston said.

The van's three occupants complained of pain and were taken by ambulance to a hospital.

The passenger in the fleeing Pontiac ran east from the crash through a nearby KFC restaurant before escaping into the neighborhood.

"I thought we had been robbed," said Kevin Chen, the restaurant's manager. "We got a picture of him from the camera we have inside."

Police used the restaurant's surveillance video to provide searchers with a description of the fleeing suspect.

Steele said police recovered some of the stolen money, but she would not say where it was found.

To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com. Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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