MERCED — On Christmas Day, while many families are together watching holiday movies on television and children play with new toys, Merced police officer Alvino Garcia is looking for a man wanted on a street-drug warrant.
Its a routine search, Garcia says, and the man hes looking for is not known to be particularly dangerous.
But he likes to run from us; he runs a lot, Garcia explains as he pulls his patrol car to a curb by the entrance of Applegate Community Park.
Garcia teams up with officers Mark Fillebrown and Brian Saelee and they devise a plan. Fillebrown sets up in the alley behind a home in the 700 block of West 25th Street while Garcia and Saelee knock on the front door.
Theyre looking for 29-year-old Jeremy Bailey.
Hes on probation for everything; drugs, sales (of drugs), theft, Fillebrown says.
Bailey answers the door himself and quickly goes back inside, locking the screen door behind him.
Another person lets them in, and officers find Bailey hiding under a large pile of clothes inside the home and slide restraints over his wrists.
We got a warrant on you, man, but youre like a ghost, always moving around on us, Garcia explains.
Bailey says he doesnt know anything about a warrant. Officers ask him why he tried to run and hide if he didnt know he was wanted. Theres no response.
I got to tell you too, Jeremy, your name has been coming up a lot recently in residential burglaries, Garcia questions.
I dont residential burglary nothing, Bailey replies. I only do copper wire. Thats my thing. I dont steal other peoples stuff. Maybe Im a dirtbag, but Im no scumbag.
All in all, Garcia says, its a good arrest and clears one more name off the Police Departments warrants list.
It feels like a fairly routine part of an officers day even if that day is Christmas.
Garcia, a 41-year-old police veteran, had been patrolling down West 16th Street earlier, driving his vehicle through hotel parking lots. Hes not looking for anything or anyone in particular, but its a part of town known for prostitution, drugs and strong-armed robberies. Police say they like to roll through there every few hours to fly the law-enforcement flag.
Usually on Christmas, people think it would be pretty quiet, and it can be, he explains. But you just never know when something is going to happen.
Typically, officers say, they see a lot of domestic disputes. They break up minor scuffles between husbands and wives who might be starting to feel the reality and stress of Christmas-spending bills sink in, or they intervene in decades-old arguments between drunken relatives who only see each other during the holidays.
Sometimes, Garcia says, those family disputes can turn brutally violent.
Not long after last Thanksgiving, Garcia says, he was called to a home and found a woman bleeding from her head. He said she was in the bathroom when her adult daughter attacked her with a hammer and screwdriver, stabbing her in the head. The daughter then bit the mothers face, he recalls.
(The daughter) was claiming it was all self-defense, Garcia says. Theres no way to know when such things are going to happen, he says, but such calls are relatively rare and make up a smaller part of an officers daily tasks.
A green Cadillac pulls out onto M Street in front of Garcias car. The driver makes a very wide turn onto West 22nd Street its brake lights are out. Garcia gets his cars colored light bar flashing and pulls the car over.
Did you know your brake lights are broken? he asks the driver. That could be a fix-it ticket.
The officer chats with the woman for a few minutes. They laugh and Garcia walks back to the car without writing a citation.
She says shes getting it fixed. You dont like to write everybody up, he says. Its Christmas.