Sometimes it seems no good deed goes unpunished.
A 47-year-old Fresno man offered a ride to a stranger Monday, hauled him across county lines to visit a friend — then got hijacked by the hitchhiker.
To escape, the victim leapt from his van while it was going 30 to 40 mph on Highway 99. The suspect, possibly from the crime-ridden state of Sinaloa in Mexico, remains at large.
The tale of the Good Samaritan-turned-crime victim began around 4 p.m. when a Fresno man driving a van offered a ride to a stranger.
He was driving on Highway 33 near Santa Nella when he saw a Hispanic male in his 20s walking on the side of the road, according to sheriff’s spokesperson Deputy Tom MacKenzie. When the driver asked where he was headed, the man said he was going to see a friend in Turlock. The driver offered him a ride.
After reaching Turlock, according to MacKenzie, the passenger’s friend wasn’t home, so the driver generously offered to take the man back to his home in Fresno. When they got a couple of miles south of Merced on Highway 99, the man pulled a handgun from his pants and ordered the victim to “keep driving,” according to MacKenzie.
Stunned by his good deed gone bad, the victim slowed the van, but was again ordered by the suspect to “keep driving.” The victim, fearing for his life, unbuckled his seat belt and jumped from the driver’s side door as the van slowed to around 30 to 40 mph, MacKenzie said.
Authorities believe the suspect then gained control of the van because it took off southbound on Highway 99 after it came to a rolling stop in the center divider. The victim walked to the CHP Weigh Scales at Highway 99 and Mini Turn Road to report the incident.
The victim was treated for minor injuries of cuts and scrapes by an ambulance crew and released. The suspect claimed to have been from Sinaloa, MacKenzie said. Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico, is known as a haven for several drug cartels.
The suspect is described as in his mid-20s, about 5-feet-8-inches tall, 170 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was hearing a black shirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes.
The vehicle is a white Toyota van, license plate number 4JMZ897 and was last seen heading towards Fresno.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Jeff Coburn at the Merced Sheriff's Office at (209) 385-7472.
And if offered a ride this week in a white Toyota van, it’s probably a smart idea to keep walking.
Executive editor Mike Tharp can be reached at (209) 385-2427/2456 or firstname.lastname@example.org