A kidnapping victim believes a Merced County sheriff's deputy's vehicle enforcement stop at a remote location early Tuesday morning may have saved his life.
Sheriff spokesman Tom MacKenzie said Brett Mejia, 31, and Mark Todd Tomlinson, 27, were arrested on charges of kidnapping, conspiracy to commit a felony and battery.
A third person also is sought in connection with the early morning abduction.
MacKenzie said the 24-year-old kidnapping victim -- not identified because one of the suspects hasn't been caught -- suffered several defensive cuts and bruises to his forearms as he tried to fend off his attackers.
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After searching the vehicle, deputy Alex Alvarez reported finding a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun wedged in the front seat.
"The victim believes that he would have been driven out into the country and killed if they were not stopped by the sheriff's office," said Detective Micah Brawley.
MacKenzie said the kidnapping victim met with Mejia, his girlfriend, at 12:25 a.m. at a Merced restaurant.
After getting into a vehicle with her, they traveled to Shaffer and Fisher roads in the Winton area where she pulled the car over and confronted him about the $200 she believed he had stolen from her.
Unbeknownst to him, she had another boyfriend, Tomlinson, and a friend, following in a truck behind her.
When she pulled over, Tomlinson and the other man ran up to her vehicle and started beating the victim.
Investigators said they believe the suspects used a stick or pipe, based on statements and types of wounds he received.
The second boyfriend was following in his vehicle until he saw the patrol vehicle and pulled off on a side road.
As Alvarez made contact with the car's occupants, the victim said they were going to kill him and had a gun in the car.
Mejia and Tomlinson remained in Merced County Jail on Tuesday night.
Mejia's bail was $155,000 and Tomlinson's is $102,000, according to a correctional official.
Mejia also was charged with carrying a loaded handgun.
Deputies are still looking for the third suspect.
Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.