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.
It’s a routine search, Garcia says, and the man he’s 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.
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They’re looking for 29-year-old Jeremy Bailey.
“He’s 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 you’re like a ghost, always moving around on us,” Garcia explains.
Bailey says he doesn’t know anything about a warrant. Officers ask him why he tried to run and hide if he didn’t know he was wanted. There’s no response.
“I got to tell you too, Jeremy, your name has been coming up a lot recently in residential burglaries,” Garcia questions.
“I don’t residential burglary nothing,” Bailey replies. “I only do copper wire. That’s my thing. I don’t steal other people’s stuff. Maybe I’m a dirtbag, but I’m no scumbag.”
All in all, Garcia says, it’s a good arrest and clears one more name off the Police Department’s warrants list.
It feels like a fairly routine part of an officer’s 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. He’s not looking for anything or anyone in particular, but it’s 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 mother’s face, he recalls.
“(The daughter) was claiming it was all self-defense,” Garcia says. There’s 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 officer’s daily tasks.
A green Cadillac pulls out onto M Street in front of Garcia’s car. The driver makes a very wide turn onto West 22nd Street – its brake lights are out. Garcia gets his car’s 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 she’s getting it fixed. You don’t like to write everybody up,” he says. “It’s Christmas.”