Pickup is stolen, crashed in Atwater; 1 arrested

sjansen@mercedsunstar.comMay 18, 2013 

— A man was arrested this week after a stolen pickup truck was crashed, police reported.

Officers were dispatched to the 1000 block of Cedar Avenue in Atwater about 3 a.m. Wednesday after a black 1994 Chevrolet pickup hit a parked vehicle and crashed into a grass embankment.

The driver of the pickup, Eric Tolentino, 20, was taken into custody at gunpoint after officers learned the vehicle had been stolen, police said.

The owner of the pickup was at the crash site when officers arrived. He told police that his pickup had been stolen from outside his house shortly before the crash.

The victim told officers he was warming up his pickup in front of his house. He said that when he went inside his home, someone took off in his vehicle without his knowledge or permission.

He saw the pickup being taken and got into another vehicle to follow it. The victim witnessed the pickup collide with a parked car. Police said the driver then lost control, hitting the embankment and a tree at Cedar Avenue and Second Street.

"It's not recommended to ever do the vigilante thing," said Atwater police Lt. Sam Joseph. "Leave that up to us.

"Notifying us, giving us a direction of travel helps us a lot. There could be an officer in that particular area. It could help us set up a perimeter. That could be very helpful."

"Chasing a suspect is not recommended," Joseph said. "It's too dangerous."

Tolentino appeared to have minor injuries as a result of the accident, police said, but he refused medical treatment at the scene.

He was taken to the Atwater Police Department, where he spoke to authorities. He was later booked at the Merced County Jail on charges of vehicle theft, possession of stolen property, causing a misdemeanor hit-and-run crash and being an unlicensed driver.

The pickup sustained major front end damage, police said, and the parked vehicle had serious front end damage.

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