Two suspects believed to have intentionally bashed a black Jeep Cherokee through the front glass door of Ace Hardware in Copperopolis early Monday morning to steal $3,000 of power tools were apprehended near Waterford in Stanislaus County just hours after fleeing an extensive law enforcement pursuit Tuolumne County.
About 3:30 a.m. Monday, the Cherokee was abandoned on Rock River Drive at the Tuolumne-Stanislaus county line.
Hours later, at 7:40 a.m., the passenger of the vehicle was found lurking around a residence on Crabtree Road in Waterford before being held at gunpoint by a resident who notified law enforcement, said Sonora-area California Highway Patrol officer Eli Dillon.
At 8:20 a.m., the driver of the Jeep Cherokee was located on Wilms Road in Waterford by a Riverbank Police Service chief, Dillon said.
When both of the men were found, they were muddy, wet, and their clothes were torn. Rain had fallen throughout the night and morning. The passenger sustained lacerations to his hands and was shoeless, Dillon said. The driver, he added, was wearing a bulletproof vest.
“He had his shoes though,” Dillon said.
About five hours before they were arrested by law enforcement, the driver of the black Jeep Cherokee, of Oakdale, and the passenger, of Sonora, rammed through the glass entryway of Ace Hardware on Spangler Road in Copperopolis with the back end of the vehicle with no license plates.
Richard Hibbard, manager of the Ace Hardware, formerly True Value, said surveillance footage at 3:16 a.m. showed the vehicle bash into the glass doors, signalling the alarm.
“It shattered the whole front end,” he said. “When they backed in it just kind of exploded it all.”
The men rushed through the “demolished” rubble of the front door, he said, and stole six pieces of equipment, a rototiller, three backpack blowers, a chainsaw and a concrete saw totalling about $3,000 to $4,000 in value.
Hurrying to their vehicle, Hibbard said they struggled to pack the stolen equipment into the rear of the vehicle.
“They were slamming it down trying to get the stuff in there and then they got out of there like a bat out of hell,” he said.
Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Rachelle Whiting said the method for shattering the glass entryway with the vehicle was intentional.
“That's what it appears from viewing video surveillance,” she said. “They were in and out within five minutes.”
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office issued an alert for the vehicle moments later, a Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office press release stated.
Dillon said that, just before 3:30 a.m., he had been patrolling the area of Highway 120 west of O’Byrnes Ferry Road in Tuolumne County in a CHP vehicle when he identified the black Jeep Cherokee speed by him with no tail lights and no license plate.
The vehicle, continuing westbound, turned onto Green Springs Road and then onto Rock River Road, south of Highway 120, and on the outskirts of Jamestown. The access to Rock River Road from Green Springs Road is just adjacent to J-59 in the direction of La Grange.
The rambling and ultra-rural Rock River Road, which connects Tuolumne and Stanislaus Counties, is commonly used as a bike path and contains stretches of unpaved or neglected road.
Dillon said the driver drove on the wrong side of the road, nearly off the road at least once, and nearly crash three times. The vehicle became disabled near the county line, he said, and he watched the suspects flee in opposite directions.
“They were leaving the car while it was still rolling backward,” he said.
The driver, he added, fled into a field on the west side of the road, while the passenger fled into a field on the east side.
The officers disabled the car and began a foot search with a K9, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies and Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Dillon said.
Officers found power tools in the car and small caliber ammunition was found under the driver's seat, Dillon said.
A check of the serial numbers on the tools confirmed that they were the same items reported stolen from the Ace Hardware, he said.
Matthew Tobias Ayers, 31, of Oakdale, was booked on suspicion of receiving known stolen property, evading a peace officer with a wanton disregard for safety, possession of ammunition while prohibited and misdemeanor charges obstructing a peace officer.
Kenneth Donald Carnes, 39, of Sonora, was booked into the Tuolumne County Jail on suspicion of receiving known stolen property and misdemeanor charges obstructing a peace officer.
Ayers was booked with a bail of $15,000 and Carnes was booked with a bail of $10,000.
As of Tuesday afternoon, both remained in the custody of the Tuolumne County Jail.
Whiting said the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office would be seeking additional prosecution on burglary charges.
Hibbard said the business, which sustained extensive damage, was closed for many hours Monday morning while the area was cleaned. The business is now open, he said, and until new glass is installed, a makeshift door with hinges had been constructed as an entryway.