CERES -- Police arrested three Modesto men suspected of snatching a cash register at a shoe store during business hours Friday evening and of leading officers on a short pursuit that ended after they rammed a police car.
Investigators believe the trio is linked to a series of thefts at Modesto businesses earlier this month, in which thieves ripped off cash registers while employees and customers were inside.
Police arrested Terrell Gaspard, 21, Terrance Gaspard, 21, and Jose Guizar, 19, shortly before 6:30 p.m., said officer Ivan Valencia, a Modesto police spokesman. Terrell and Terrance Gaspard are twins.
Valencia said the cash register thefts prompted the Modesto Police Department to assign officers from its Street Crimes Unit and Modesto Narcotics Enforcement Team to follow up on leads in the investigation.
He said the officers identified the Gaspards and Guizar as potential suspects and conducted surveillance on the trio, following them Friday evening to the area of Hatch and Herndon roads in Ceres.
The Gaspards and Guizar were riding in a full-sized van, he said.
At 6:18 p.m., the surveillance team and Ceres police were notified that a robbery alarm had been activated at the Payless ShoeSource near Hatch Road.
Valencia said police later confirmed that thieves had walked into the shoe store, pulled the cash register off the front counter and carried it out.
He said the surveillance team spotted the suspects in the van leaving the area of the shoe store and followed them until a traffic stop could be made with marked police cars.
Ceres police joined the pursuit as the van made its way to Richland Avenue and headed north toward Hatch Road. Ceres officers became concerned that the suspects would drive recklessly down busy Hatch to avoid being stopped.
A Ceres officer initiated a "high-risk stop" by blocking Richland Avenue with his patrol unit at Rancho Drive, Valencia said. Other officers and the surveillance team were behind the suspects.
The van stopped at Rancho Drive, then the suspects tried to escape and struck the side of the police car that was blocking the way, Valencia said.
"The other officers got behind the suspects, and there was really no place for them to go," Valencia said.
No injuries were reported during the robbery and the pursuit, he said.
Police did not find any weapons in a search of the van, but officers did find the shoe store cash register, Valencia said.
Modesto police ask anyone with information about the cash register robberies to call CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers to CrimeStoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.