6 Merced men arrested after wild ride with witness on roof

Trying to stop suspects fleeing a Stevinson market with two 12-packs of Budweiser, a 28-year-old man survived a rooftop ride atop a sport utility vehicle at speeds of up to 80 mph, authorities said.

While the Good Samaritan didn't personally get his men, he was able to safely get off the roof when the suspects were forced to slow down. They were caught a short time later by a Merced County sheriff's deputy.

It all started Sunday about 4 p.m. when the witness saw a suspect running out of the store with the beer and into a tan Chevy Tahoe occupied by five other people, said Deputy Tom MacKenzie, a sheriff's spokesman.

Seeing this, the man, whose name has not been released, approached the SUV and began pounding on the window in hopes of stopping the suspects.

The Tahoe took off, and the man jumped onto its running board, grabbing a railing on the roof, MacKenzie said.

The SUV continued south on Lander Avenue before turning east onto Highway 140, where it reached speeds estimated at 80 mph.

At some point early on, one of the suspects tried punching the witness to get him off the automobile. The man then climbed onto the roof of the SUV and began pounding on it, telling the suspects to stop.

In the meantime, the man's father, who was at the store with his son, was pursuing the SUV in his car. He managed to pull in front of the SUV and slowed it down enough for his son to safely jump off.

The suspects then took off.

A few minutes later, deputy Tim Goncalves spotted the SUV at Westside and Lincoln boulevards near Livingston. After running a few stop signs, the driver of the SUV pulled over.

In the car and arrested on suspicion of burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime were Merced residents Ryan Valencia, 21; David Garza, 22; Daniel Martinez, 23; Ruben Garza, 20; Steven Villanueva, 26; and Thomas Campos, 18.

MacKenzie was appreciative of the efforts of the Good Samaritan but cautioned others about doing the same.

"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."