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Child Taken in Stolen Auto Reunited with Family

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MERCED – The parents of a three year old girl who was taken with their car as it was stolen were relieved to have their child back home Monday night.

The incident happened at about 6:45pm on the 400 block of West 27th Street, as Melissa Foster was preparing to take her Toyota Corolla to a car wash.

“I took one second just to run back to my porch to grab my purse,” Foster said. “In that split second, my mom saw the car door open and close.”

Someone had jumped into the car and began driving off with it. Melissa’s three year old daughter Jessie Sanchez, or “JJ” as she is affectionately called, was still inside. Melissa chased after the car on foot for two blocks before the vehicle was able to get away.

She believed whoever took her car and her daughter had been watching and waiting for her.

Police searched the surrounding neighborhood for any sign of the the stolen vehicle and the child.

“Commonly when someone steals a car and finds a child inside they (the suspect) will usually abandon the car within three or four blocks,” said Captain Jay Struble with the Merced Police Department. “Unfortunately this was not the case here.”

As time continued to pass with no sign of the car or the child, authorities issued an Amber Alert. Photos of the car and child were posted and shared to social media sites to help the word spread.

At about 8:45pm, the California Highway Patrol received a call from a citizen saying they saw the vehicle parked at a Chevron in Chowchilla. Authorities responded and found the vehicle abandoned with the child inside. Officers had to force entry into the vehicle to gain access, but found the child was unharmed and uninjured.

Detectives with the Merced Police Department, officers with Chowchilla Police and California Highway Patrol, as well as a K-9 from the Merced County Sheriff’s Office searched the area for any signs of a suspect. Monday night there was no word of an arrest.

Captain Struble said investigators were looking at surveillance video from the area, but they can only make out what appeared to be a male figure.

Jessie was brought home and reunited with her family in Merced shortly before 9:30pm. To brighten her spirits, Officer Rogelio Rodriguez bought her lollipops to enjoy on the drive home.

“She was very excited to see her mom and dad when she got back.”

The parents expressed their gratitude for the authorities involved in searching for little Jessie, and thankful for the public and Amber Alert system that made everything in this incident work out.

“Your mind is just a fog in that moment,” the child’s mother said of the two hours waiting while police searched for the girl. “I know she’s so strong and so brave.”

Carlos Rodriguez is an Emmy Award winning photojournalist specializing in public safety and natural disasters. His passion for local news stems from a deep commitment to his community, with a selfless mission to inform the citizens of the valley. As he worked on assignment for 19 days at the devastating Camp Fire in Paradise, California, he spent most of his time helping survivors contact their loved ones to let them know they were ok. Carlos is a veteran of Univision, FOX, and Telemundo TV stations and a native of Modesto, California.

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Update: Merced Man Charged With Homicide in Fatal Hit and Run

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Police detain Cruz Diaz shortly after a fatal hit and run Wedensday morning.

MODESTO – Authorities arrested a 39 year old Merced man on homicide charges after the intentional hit and run of two pedestrians claimed the life of one early Wednesday morning.

Shortly after midnight police were called to the area of Maze Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr Drive for a report of a person hit by a vehicle.

Officers arriving at the scene located a man and woman who were both struck by a vehicle. A woman was found in the alley behind the convenience store at the intersection. A man who was also struck and injured crawled toward the front of the store for help.

The 61 year old woman who was found in the alley next to a tent was unresponsive. Police officers began performing CPR on her until medics arrived. She was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced deceased. The 30 year old male victim was also taken to a hospital by ambulance and was taken straight into treatment. Officials believe both victims may be related but as of late Wednesday morning those details had not been confirmed.

Authorities believed a possible argument had led up to the incident according to Lieutenant Chris Adams. Witness accounts indicated the act appeared intentional, the Lieutenant explained. Police were also reviewing surveillance video.

One witness who declined to be identified said he saw the vehicle strike a person, back up and then hit them again. He explained he then saw the vehicle drive away from the area.

Police officers closed off the alleyway with crime scene tape as detectives and crime scene technicians responded to investigate and gather evidence.

While officers worked the scene, a police cadet spotted a vehicle nearby matching the description. The cadet, identified as Mason Lewis, followed the vehicle and guided patrol officers to its location. Officers were able to stop the vehicle and detain the driver, identified as Cruz Diaz, to be interviewed.

Cadet Lewis has been with the department since his signing up as an explorer and is on his way to the police academy Lieutenant Adams said.

The Nissan sedan suspected of being involved in the crash was seized as evidence by police. There was visible damage on the vehicle and it was missing a mirror. The front passenger tire was flat.

Diaz was booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on homicide charges.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to contact Detective Booza at boozag@modestopd.com or Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636 where callers can remain anonymous.

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Fatal Hit and Run Investigated as Homicide

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MODESTO – Police detectives investigated a hit and run that claimed the life of a woman as a homicide Wednesday morning.

Shortly after midnight police were called to the area of Maze Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr Drive for a report of a person hit by a vehicle.

Officers arriving at the scene located a man and woman who were both struck by a vehicle. A woman was found in the alley behind the convenience store at the intersection. A man who was also struck and injured crawled toward the front of the store for help.

The woman who was found in the alley was unresponsive. Police officers began performing CPR on her until medics arrived. She was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced deceased. The male victim was also taken to a hospital by ambulance and was taken straight into treatment.

Authorities believed a possible argument had led up to the incident according to Lieutenant Chris Adams. Witness accounts indicated the act appeared intentional, the Lieutenant explained. Police were also reviewing surveillance video.

One witness who declined to be identified said he saw the vehicle strike a person, back up and then hit them again. He explained he then saw the vehicle drive away from the area.

Police officers closed off the alleyway with crime scene tape as detectives and crime scene technicians responded to investigate and gather evidence.

While officers worked the scene, a police cadet spotted a vehicle nearby matching the description. The cadet, identified as Mason Lewis, followed the vehicle and guided patrol officers to its location. Officers were able to stop the vehicle and detain the driver to be interviewed.

Cadet Lewis has been with the department since his signing up as an explorer and is on his way to the police academy Lieutenant Adams said.

The Nissan sedan suspected of being involved in the crash was seized as evidence by police. There was visible damage on the vehicle and it was missing a mirror. The front passenger tire was flat.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to contact the Modesto Police Department or Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636 where callers can remain anonymous.

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Body Camera Video Released From Fatal Shooting of Stockton Officer

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STOCKTON – Body camera worn by officers Jimmy Inn and Pancho Freer were released Tuesday morning along with 911 recordings detailing the fatal incident.

The video begins with a brief introduction by Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones. 911 calls made by neighbors are included, indicating that a domestic disturbance was taking place on La Cresta Way the date of the incident.

The video goes on to include the moments Officer Inn made contact with the suspect and was shot. Moments later Officer Freer is fired on in his patrol vehicle. He is later heard pleading with the suspect to release the child he is seen strangling on video.

The video can be viewed on the Stockton Police Department Facebook page by CLICKING HERE. The viewer may not be suitable for all audiences.

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