Masked man eludes authorities

October 27, 2003 11:00 pm

By MIKE MORRIS

An armed man wearing a Halloween mask led Calaveras County Sheriff's deputies on a chase into San Joaquin County early Sunday morning.

The man eluded his pursuers in San Joaquin County after California Highway Patrol officers chased him with a helicopter and a K-9 unit.

The chase started when the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department received a call of a suspicious vehicle parked along Quail Oaks Road in Valley Springs. Deputies spotted the white sedan at 6:50 a.m. Sunday.

What Deputies Steve Schofield and Greg Stark found inside was a man wearing a Halloween mask with his head resting on the steering wheel. On the seat next to the man was a shotgun the deputies said appeared to be loaded.

When the deputies knocked on the car window to talk to the man, he raised his head up, took his mask off and looked around.

Schofield and Stark saw that he was a white man with short hair and a mustache. Sheriff's officials said they did not know what type of mask he was wearing.

Instead of lowering his window, the man started his car and drove away. The deputies followed in their car using a siren and emergency lights. They called for backup from the California Highway Patrol office in Stockton.

The chase continued west at speeds of 75 to 90 mph to Highway 26. In San Joaquin County, deputies turned the chase over to CHP officers, who followed the runaway driver into two orchards.

CHP officers later followed the man into a vineyard, where he got out of his car with his mask and gun and began running. Officers chased him to the banks of the Mokelumne River before losing him.

The CHP was unavailable this morning, but the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department had some details.

The man evaded the patrolmen in thick brush and blackberry thickets, Sheriff's Capt. Mike Walker said. And, despite using a dogs and a helicopter, the officers couldn't find him.

The man's sedan was towed by the CHP and is being examined.