Car theft suspects in custody after chase through Modesto, Ceres

Three car theft suspects led police officers on a high-speed chase Thursday afternoon through south Modesto and Ceres before crashing into an orchard, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The chase began around 12:50 p.m. after members of the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force spotted a 2008 Nissan Sentra heading north on Highway 99 near Whitmore Avenue, said CHP spokesman Tom Killian.

They recognized the occupants as recent auto theft suspects, he said, including one just arrested the day before by StanCATT.

Ceres police tried to pull the vehicle over, but instead of stopping, it got off the freeway and drove onto Seventh Street in Modesto. It turned down Crows Landing Road to Hatch Road, at times reaching speeds as high as 100 mph, Killian said.

One of the passengers tossed a .45-caliber handgun out of the window while speeding down Hatch Road. Officers recovered the gun and later identified as it as one that had been stolen during a home burglary, Ceres Police Chief Art de Werk said.

Ceres police and the CHP chased the vehicle as it turned onto Carpenter Road. The suspects lost control near Service Road. The car slammed into a van before veering into an orchard, where the vehicle came to a stop at 12:57 p.m., Killian said.

The suspects suffered varying degrees of injuries from the crash and were taken to the hospital, de Werk said. None of the occupants in the van was injured.

The suspects are in custody. Police have identified the driver as Joshua Macen, 20, of Modesto, and the passengers as Ricky Beets, 24, of Keyes and Michelle Chin, 26, of Modesto.

Macen is a parolee who has been at large since June in connection with a shooting. He has an outstanding felony warrant for violating parole and is wanted in connection with a recent auto theft.

Beets, who was arrested and released from jail the day before on auto theft charges, is suspected of a home burglary in Ceres in which the gun was stolen along with several other firearms, a safe, jewelry and personal information, de Werk said.

Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at csalerno@modbee.com or 238-4574.