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Motorist follows hit-run suspect to Planada

When a motorist hit his car from behind and wouldn't stop, the victim followed him from Merced to Planada, alerting authorities of the hit-and-run driver's whereabouts so he could be arrested, police say.

Lt. Matt Williams of the Merced Police Department said Santos Garcia-Espinoza, 20, of Planada, was arrested Sunday morning with the help of Merced County Sheriff's Department deputies on charges of misdemeanor hit-and-run driving, driving without a license and driving without insurance.

Williams said Lawrence Fuentes' 2002 Dodge pickup was stopped at West Main and K streets at 10:34 a.m. when a 1992 Honda Civic driven by Garcia-Espinoza hit him from behind.

"Fuentes, who wasn't injured in the collision, pulled over to the right side of the roadway to exchange information with the other driver as prescribed by law," Williams said. "The driver of the Honda Civic had other plans though and had no intentions of stopping."

Fuentes followed the Honda Civic on Yosemite Park Way and Highway 140 to Planada, relaying information to the 911 operator by cell phone. Officer Rogelio Rodriguez also joined the pursuit. Police dispatchers relayed the information to sheriff's Deputy Darrell Allen who stopped Garcia-Espinoza when he pulled into an alleyway behind some houses, Williams said.

Garcia-Espinoza was booked into Merced County Jail and then released on his own recognizance.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or