One man is in custody and a second is being sought for a Hilmar burglary in which police say the perpetrators were after assault rifles. It turns out they allegedly took replica weapons.
Just before 3 p.m. Monday, two men pulled up to a house in the 24000 block of Williams Avenue, according to Merced County sheriff's deputy Tom MacKenzie. Across the street, the property owner's brother saw the two but didn't recognize the vehicle, plus he knew the owner wasn't home.
After he saw what he believed was one of the men carrying something from the house, he started to confront them, but the two almost ran over him in their vehicle, according to Mac-Kenzie.
The property owner's brother jumped into his truck and chased them after calling the Sheriff's Office. He lost them in Atwater.
Deputy Alex Barba found the vehicle, a black Honda Civic, and the two suspects took off running. The driver, Atwater resident Osbaldo Sanchez, 37, was caught after witnesses said they saw him near Winton Cemetery about two miles away, lying in the grass, MacKenzie said.
During an interview, Osbaldo said he was hired to steal assault rifles from the house. Inside the trunk of the vehicle, Sanchez found an MP5, a SAW (squad automatic weapon) or M60, a sawed-off shotgun and an assault rifle, MacKenzie said.
What the suspects didn't realize when they allegedly broke into the house to steal the weapons was that they were Air Soft replicas of assault weapons.
Osbaldo was jailed on suspicion of burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime and assault with a deadly weapon. His bail was set at $90,000.
The investigation continues, and deputies are looking for the second suspect.