Crime

K9 helps Merced County deputies arrest 3 suspects in 2 days. ‘It’s a game for her’

Merced County Sheriff’s Office K9 Banshee poses with her handler, Deputy Dustin Witt, after Banshee successfully tracked the scent of the driver of a stolen vehicle involved in a hit-and-run collision on Highway 140, west of Merced, on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019.
Merced County Sheriff’s Office K9 Banshee poses with her handler, Deputy Dustin Witt, after Banshee successfully tracked the scent of the driver of a stolen vehicle involved in a hit-and-run collision on Highway 140, west of Merced, on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. Courtesy California Highway Patrol Merced

One of the best trackers in Merced County helped law enforcement find and arrest three suspects in the last two days, deputies said.

Banshee, a 3-year-old bloodhound K9 for the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, first used her nose to help track and find two suspects of a residential burglary in Merced on Thursday.

69875343_3273014756104565_5369272615414267904__fitted.jpeg
Courtesy California Highway Patrol Merced

Then, early Friday, Banshee helped California Highway Patrol officers track down the alleged driver of a stolen vehicle involved in a crash on Highway 140, west of Merced.

Deputies responded to reports of a residential burglary in progress at a home in the 2100 block of Fern Street on Thursday, according to a news release.

The resident reported to deputies he found two people inside his home, who had been taking his belongings.

The suspects took off running when deputies arrived, the release states. While deputies set up a perimeter, Banshee and her handler Deputy Dustin Witt started to track the suspects through their last known location.

MUG_OwensJolen_fitted.jpeg
Courtesy Merced County Sheriff's Office

Banshee tracked Atwater resident Jolene Owens, 45, to a tent trailer at a Fern Street home a quarter-mile away where she was hiding, according to the release.

The second suspect, Merced resident Nicholas Brown, 32, was taken into custody after he’ had been running in the Beachwood area.

Both suspects were booked into Merced County Jail on suspicion of felony burglary.

19-year-old driver tracked down

At around 8:11 a.m. Friday, California Highway Patrol officers responded to reports of a hit-and-run collision on Highway 140 near the intersection with North Quinley Avenue.

The driver of a black Honda Civic that was reported stolen was driving east on Highway 140, recklessly passing other vehicles, when he lost control and collided into a 2016 Chevrolet Traverse that was driving west, the release states.

As officers were on their way, the driver of the Honda and several passengers started to flee the scene. The driver of the Chevrolet, Atwater resident Adrianna Garcia, 36, and a minor child suffered minor injuries and were not taken to hospitals for treatment.

CHP called on the help of the Merced County deputies and Banshee, who picked up the alleged driver’s scent and successfully tracked him, the release states.

The driver, identified as Merced resident Cristian Mercado, 19, was arrested at the scene, CHP Merced Officer Eric Zuniga said. Officers set up a perimeter around the area, but weren’t able to locate three additional passengers of the vehicle.

The first suspect at-large was described as a black male adult about 19 to 20 years old, 5-foot, 9-inches in height and weighing about 200 pounds. He was reportedly wearing a black t-shirt and black sweatpants, and had a ponytail or dreadlocks.

The second suspect was described as a white or Hispanic woman wearing blue shorts and a white shirt. She was likely about 5-feet and 9-inches tall, weighing about 200 pounds with red-dyed long curly hair and possibly bleeding from the face.

The third suspect was described as a Hispanic man weighing between 165 and 180 pounds, about 5-foot, 3-inches in height with freckles but no facial hair. He was reported wearing a black shirt with blue jeans.

“Banshee is our star,” Merced County Sheriff’s Deputy Daryl Allen said. “She has such a sensitive nose she can pick up a scent even days later. This is playing for her, it’s a game for her. And she gets rewarded for what she just likes to do.”

Allen said Banshee is one of two tracking bloodhound K9s the Sheriff’s Office has. They also have four Labradors and five apprehension Malinois K9s.

Anyone with information on the collision or suspects is being asked to call the Merced Communications Center at 209-356-2900.

MUG_BrownNichola_fitted.jpeg
Courtesy Merced County Sheriff's Office

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.
  Comments