Six new police officers were sworn in to the Merced Police Department, the largest swearing in ceremony in recent memory

Police Chief Christopher Goodwin administered the oath to the officers in a ceremony held in a packed City Council Chambers before family, friends and City staff. The Department has 89 officers with 98 sworn positions in the budget. The vacancies include a police captain position that was created when Goodwin was promoted to chief, two sergeants, and six police officers.

“We are fortunate to have had this many high quality officers sworn in all at once,” Goodwin said. “This is a result of our recruiting efforts and then the timing of the four trainees graduating from the academy at the same time.”

Goodwin noted the four Fresno academy graduates placed in the Top Five in their class. He said more officers are joining the force shortly.

“We have another officer graduating from the academy this week, and we just hired two other officers last Friday,” he said.”

The new officers are:

Tim Farmer, 36, who was raised in Merced with his two brothers. He is a Merced High graduate who completed the veterinary technician program at Modesto Junior College.  He graduated from the Fresno Police Academy where he was sponsored by the Merced MPD.

Farmer is married with two daughters, ages 5 and 2, and a son due in November. When he isn’t studying his police work he enjoys playing golf, basketball, and soccer. He likes all sports including auto racing, and loves spending time with his wife and daughters.

Dominic Saelee, 26, is from Visalia. He was the youngest of four children. He graduated from Golden West High School in Visalia and attended Fresno State. He is a graduate of Tulare-Kings County Police Academy.

He’s the proud new uncle to baby Charlotte.

In his spare time he enjoys hiking, camping and the outdoors. He likes to play recreational sports like soccer and golf and spending time with Christy, his girlfriend of eight years.

Shawn Kramer, 32, of Merced. He graduated Golden Valley High School and also the Fresno Police Academy, where he was sponsored by the Merced PD.

Kramer likes to work with his hands and build things, computers and technology/electronics. He also enjoys hunting and trap shooting.

Tevon Prevostini, 25, from Denair. After graduating high school, he took criminal justice classes in college. He graduated from the Fresno Police Academy where he was sponsored by the Merced PD.

Prevostini enjoys spending time with his wife, fly fishing, upland bird and duck hunting, camping and hiking.

David Benavidez, 27, of Merced. The high school grad is a graduate of the Fresno Police Academy where he was sponsored by the Merced PD. He served five years in the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout.

Benavidez is married with two sons and is expecting his third son in August.

He is an avid soccer player.

Patrick Radke, 31, of Atwater. After graduating high school he took classes at Merced College.

Radke has three years of law enforcement experience with the Atwater Police Department and seven years experience with the Livingston Police Department.

He is married with a son, 6, and a daughter, 8.

In his spare time he enjoys bass fishing and hunting water fowl.

The City is currently recruiting for both police officers and police officer trainees.  The position of police officer pays $62,169.36 to $75,566.88 a year.  Trainees can earn from $40,264.08 to $48,941.04. More information on the jobs can be found at the City’s website, www.cityofmerced.org.

 

POLICE STILL LOOKING FOR MAN, FOR BEHEADING GIRLFRIEND

Jacob Gonzales, age 34, is wanted for the violent beheading death of Katherine E. Cunningham out of Island County, Washington, and a 1 MILLION DOLLAR BAIL is current issued for his arrest. the Merced Area CrimeStoppers wants to help and if you want to help and choose to remain anonymous, utilize the tip line.

You can also contact Washington State authorities where an additional reward is available upon the arrest and/or conviction of GONZALES. See the contact information below. Katherine was a local graduate of Buhach Colony High School and was a friend to residents in the area.

The Island County Sheriff’s Office in Washington, is seeking information as to the whereabouts of Jacob Gonzales. Gonzales has ties to the Merced County/Los Banos area in California and it is believed that he may currently be there.

Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Jacob Gonzales is asked to report it the local law enforcement in the area he is prior to providing the information to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.
Gonzales is a Hispanic male, 5’9 inches tall, 150 pounds with black hair and hazel eyes, he may have shaved his head and/or facial hair in an attempt to hide his identity.

Jacob Gonzales is believed to be armed and dangerous we ask that the public not approach him.
Anyone who wishes to provide information regarding the case should contact Detective Ed Wallace via the ICOM dispatch center at 360-679-9567 or tips@co.island.wa.us. Or the Island County Sheriff’s Office at 360-678-4422.

AGAIN, IF YOU SEE GONZALES CALL CRIMESTOPPERS AT 1-855-725-2420 or text “MERCED” AND YOUR TIP INFO TO # 274637 . HELP FIND JUSTICE FOR KATHERINE.

ATWATER ALMOND TREE TEMPORARILY CLOSES, DUE TO FIRE

Due to the fire last night July 12, 2018, Owners had to shut down the location for now until repairs are completed. This is what they said on their Facebook page to customers, “With very heavy hearts, we regret to inform our Almond Tree family and friends, the Tree will be closed until further notice, due to an electrical fire. We want to thank the fire fighters who responded so quickly to the situation.

They prevented the fire from not only spreading any further and assuring everyone’s safety but also keeping in contact with management on the situations status. The Almond Tree is a family owned and operated restaurant and as such our employees and customers are a part of our big extended family as well.

To see it empty at the moment due to these unforeseen circumstances breaks our hearts! However, we know with the support, loyalty, and understanding, that each one of you has shown us in the community on this night, we will all get through this rough time together until we can reopen our doors again!!!

Almond Tree management thanks you all, and will do what we can to update you on the progress of reopening as it approaches. Have a great weekend and stay safe!!!”

MAN ARMED WITH GUN, SHOT BY LOS BANOS POLICE OFFICER DIES

On July 11, 2018 at approximately 12:22 p.m., Officers responded to a park area near the intersection of 7th and G Street after a local landscaper and a City employee encountered a man armed with a handgun.

Two Officers arrived and encountered a man matching the description provided. During their contact with the man, he became uncooperative and failed to comply with basic commands given by the Officers.

At one point during the contact, the man told the Officers he was armed, indicating with his hand where the weapon was, along his waistline.

The Officers continued to give the man commands to raise his hands and to go to his knees, but he would not comply. Without warning, the man suddenly lifted his shirt and drew a handgun from his waistline. In response, one of the Officers fired one round at the man, striking him in the abdomen.

Emergency medical personnel responded and transported the man to the hospital where he later died from his injuries.

Investigators recovered a black replica handgun at the scene. Because this investigation is ongoing no further information will be released at this time.

To leave an anonymous crime tip call (209) 827-7070, ext. 288. If you have access to a computer and the internet you can leave an anonymous tip at the Police Department’s web page at www.losbanos.org. At the bottom of the contact page simply click on the “report graffiti and other crime” link or contact the Merced Area Crime Stoppers by telephone at 1-855-725-2420, or at www.mercedareacrimestoppers.org

GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS GENTLEMAN’S CLUB DEMOLISHED

The demolition of Rosalinda’s Gentlemen’s Club and Motel located along Hwy 108 in Jamestown began yesterday, four months after an undercover investigation culminating in a search warrant was conducted resulting in ten people being booked into the county jail.

Crews arrived this morning to continue with efforts focused on the building which once served as a strip club and found several transients asleep inside. Sheriff’s Deputies responded and cleared the building to assure there was no other people inside and it was safe to proceed with demolition. Crews will remain on the property throughout the week to clean up debris.

The owner and operator of the establishment, 78-year-old Rosalinda Aponte Sanmartin, was not at the business at the time of the warrant service but later turned herself in and was booked on numerous charges stemming from this investigation such as maintaining/operating a drug house, providing alcohol without proper permits, and possession and transportation of drugs for sale.

Agents of the Tuolumne Narcotics Team (TNT) with assistance of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office SWAT, Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Detectives, Tuolumne County Probation, Child Welfare Services, and Tuolumne County Code Enforcement assisted in the investigation of the establishment where numerous health and building code violations were found.

The Operation was jointly launched by TNT and ABC in late 2017, after meeting together to discuss the host of calls for service, complaints, and violations that have taken place at the establishment over the years. 
In 2017 alone, Rosalinda’s Gentlemen’s Club generated over 50 calls for service that required a response from the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office. In the last five years, the club has generated almost 200 calls for service, many serious in nature such as the 2015 stabbing of one dancer by another at the establishment, and the recent rape investigation that was reported in November of 2017. Everything from assaults to sexual assaults, to code violations and thefts have been reported at this location over the years.

The search warrant was generated after several months of investigation into the Jamestown strip club in which illegal alcohol violations, California Code of Regulations violations, narcotics, and prostitution were investigated. During the investigation, narcotics were purchased on multiple occasions and prostitution was solicited from at least one exotic dancer employed at the club. Multiple ABC violations were also observed nightly by the undercover detectives.

Two weeks after the business was condemned, a fire ignited in the early morning hours in the hotel area and was fully engulfed in flames when CAL Fire arrived on scene. The flames then spread to the strip club, causing major damage. What ignited the fire is still currently under investigation.

Many Tuolumne County residents are relieved that the eye sore seen by highway travelers coming into the County will now be a thing of the past.

WOMAN KILLED IN CRASH, LEFT BEHIND A 6-MONTH-OLD BABY AND HUSBAND

On July 8th, 2018 at approximately 8:24A.M., Merced Communication Center received a call of a roll over traffic collision with an ambulance responding to the scene on State Route 165/ Lander Avenue, south of Salt Slough. Officers from the California Highway Patrol Los Banos area office responded to the scene and investigated the collision.

During the course of the investigation, it was determined, female driver 27- year-old Renee Lopez McCoy, was driving a 2008 Honda Southbound on State Route 165 at an unknown speed according to CHP, according to the CHP traffic website an RP caller stated, that prior the the collision the Honda was traveling approximately 100 MPH.

For unknown reasons, McCoy allowed the Honda to drift towards the northbound State Route 165 traffic lane, then made an unsafe turning movement to the right causing the Honda to run off the west side of the roadway, colliding into a road sign wood post causing it to overturn, coming to rest on its wheels facing in a northwesterly direction within a dirt/grass area. As a result of this collision, McCoy sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Alcohol and/or drugs do not appear to have been a factor in this collision. This collision is still under investigation.

A Go-fund me account was created for McCoy please click on the following link to donate to help this family out. https://www.gofundme.com/renee-lopez-mccoy

THIS IS HOW THE PLAYGROUND CAUGHT ON FIRE YESTERDAY

On July 6, 2018 at approximately 5:03 p.m., police and fire responded to Skylark Park, 648 Meadowlark Avenue for a fire. When officers arrived they found the playground equipment to be fully involved in fire. The fire was put out by Los Banos Fire Department.

A witness told police she saw a young boy walking away from the park before officers arrived on scene. When officers searched the area, they located several fireworks within the surrounding bark.

The boy was later found and questioned by police.

If you have any information on this fire, please contact Sergeant Jesus Parras at (209) 827-7070, ext. 0.

THIS IS WHAT HIGHWAY 99 IS GETTING DONE, WITH SB1 FUNDS IN MERCED

RE-STRIPING STATE ROUTE 99 IN MERCED COUNTY DUE TO SB 1 FUNDS

Caltrans is preparing to begin an SB 1 funded 27-mile re-striping project — increasing the stripe size from 4 to 6 inches, with reflective material included — on northbound and southbound State Route 99 in Merced County.

These new 6-inch stripes improve the safety and mobility of the roadway for motorists, and the reflective material accounts for emerging transportation technology by allowing autonomous vehicles to better “see” the roadway.

To find more projects in your area, please visit http://RebuildingCA.ca.gov

MAN RAMS SEVERAL VEHICLES, AFTER BECOMING UPSET WITH WIFE

On July 4, 2018 at approximately 8:10 p.m., Los Banos police officers were dispatched to the 600 block of Winepress Street for a disturbance at a residence. Mariano Sanchez, 39 of Los Banos became upset with his estranged girlfriend and began hitting her vehicle with a board. Sanchez got into a white 1997 Ford Thunderbird and deliberately drove his vehicle into the back of his ex-girlfrind’s vehicle, forcing the parked vehicle through the closed garage door.

Two officers were on an unrelated call in the area and witnessed the incident. Sanchez fled past officers at a high rate of speed. Officers had their lights and sirens going as they attempted to catch up to Sanchez who fled south on Stonewood Drive. Sanchez slammed into a parked vehicle near the intersection of Stonewood Drive and Driftwood Avenue. Sanchez’ vehicle continued forward striking two additional parked vehicles and a fence before the vehicle was disabled and Sanchez was pinned inside.

Sanchez was transported by ambulance and treated for minor injuries as a result of the collision. Sanchez was released to officers for booking in the Merced County Jail hours later. Sanchez was booked on the charge of felony vandalism. He remains in custody in lieu of $5,000 bail and he could be facing additional charges.

We are asking anyone who may have witnessed the altercation in the 600 block of Winepress Street to contact officer Darren Cole at (209) 827-7070.

MISSING MAN REPORTED WHILE RAFTING, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED

On July 2 at about 2:38 am, The Merced County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a missing person report. Deputies went to the area of the Cressey Bridge and Merced River in Ballico to contact the reporting party, Robert Apodoca.

It was reported that the missing person, identified as 37 year old Joshua Eugene Fox from Merced, was rafting with his friend on the river. They started floating down the river from the Shaffer Bridge on July 1, 2018 at about 3:00 pm and began consuming large amounts of alcohol.

During that time the two friends got separated somewhere between the Shaffer Bridge and Cressey Bridge.
Apodoca told deputies that after being separated from Fox, he began paddling his way upstream back towards Shaffer bridge. While doing so, his raft got a hole in it, and he had to walk the rest of the way back to Shaffer Bridge where his vehicle was located.

He got his vehicle, and drove to the Cressey Bridge with the hopes of meeting up with Fox. However, fox was nowhere to be found. At that point Apodoca called the Sheriff’s Office for help. The Merced County Sheriff’s Air Operation Unit was requested and after searching for about five minutes, located Joshua Fox stuck in the river a short distance from the Cressey Bridge.

With the assistance of the Air Operations Unit, Deputies were able to rescue Fox from the river and get him proper medical attention.