Man foils alleged beer burglars, goes for the ride of his life

STEVINSON -- Many will go to extremes for a beer, but only a brave few will stand in their way, by any means necessary.

Such as clinging to the roof of an SUV speeding at 80 mph.

Case in point: Six people were arrested Sunday after a good Samaritan foiled a plot to steal two 12-packs of beer, the Merced County Sheriff's Department reported. As the suspects tried to drive away, deputies say the man who saw the theft grabbed onto their SUV, trying to stop them.

The incident, which was captured on the store's surveillance cameras, happened around 4 p.m. after one of the suspects walked into Lander Grocery and Liquor at 2799 Lander Ave. in Stevinson. The suspect grabbed a pack of Tecate and a pack of Budweiser, got into a tan Chevrolet Tahoe and started to drive away, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

However, 28-year-old Stevinson resident Erick Borgman witnessed the theft and ran after the suspect, chasing him to the SUV, which was parked on the side of the store.

As the suspects pulled out, Borgman started pounding on the windows, telling the driver to stop. Five other people were also inside the SUV, MacKenzie said.

The Tahoe drove away -- but Borgman jumped onto the running board and grabbed a railing on the roof of the vehicle as it headed south on Lander Avenue. After the SUV had driven about a half-mile, Borgman said the suspects in the back seat of the SUV punched him several times in the face through the vehicle's open window. "They were going pretty fast and hitting me pretty hard," Borgman said.

As Borgman was hanging onto the SUV, his father, James Borgman, followed the suspects in his truck as they turned onto Highway 140. As the Tahoe reached speeds of about 80 mph, the younger Borgman climbed onto the SUV's roof and began pounding on it.

After the SUV traveled about five miles, Borgman's father pulled his vehicle in front of the suspects' SUV, which slowed down, allowing Erick Borgman time to jump off. Meanwhile, Deputy Tim Goncalves spotted the suspects' Tahoe at Westside Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue near Livingston.

The suspect driver passed through several stop signs, but finally yielded on Peach Street in Livingston. Several deputies arrived, taking the driver and five occupants of the SUV into custody. Sometime during the ride, the suspects tossed the beer out the window while Borgman was on the roof, MacKenzie said.

Borgman wasn't hurt during the incident. He said the owner of the store is a family friend. "It just kind of made me mad that these kids were there stealing from her store," he said. "If I hadn't chased them, they probably would have never been caught."

Borgman said he wasn't frightened, even after the suspect's SUV reached speeds of 80 mph. "I just didn't even think about it, because once I got on the car and they hit me, I just got really mad," he said.

The owner of the store, Parvinder Kaur, called Borgman a hero. "He risked his own life," Kaur said. "He is a very good guy. The SUV could have swerved or threw him out. He endangered his life."

Mackenzie was appreciative of Borgman's efforts, but cautioned others about doing the same if faced with a similar situation. "His heart was in the right place, and he did an outstanding job," Mackenzie said. "At the same time, I'd never recommend anyone doing the same thing. Just getting a license plate and a description would be the best way to go."

Suspects Ryan Valencia, 21, David Garza, 22, Daniel Martinez, 23, Ruben Garza, 20, Steven Villanueva, 26, and Thomas Campos, 18, were booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime.

All the suspects are Merced residents and are being held in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.