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.


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.


Jose Ibarra-Pineda is currently wanted by authorities in Merced County on a felony warrant for recurring sexual conduct with a child under the age of 14 years.

Ibarra-Pineda is described as 5’7” weighs 200 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. He is known to live in the city of Los Banos and may be a truck driver.

If you know where Ibarra-Pineda is hiding contact Merced Area Crime Stoppers. You never have to identify yourself and if he is arrested because of your information, you will be eligible for a secret cash reward.


Over the weekend, Sheriff Vern Warnke and the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit located a large illegal marijuana grow in the 4200 block of Merced Falls Road in Snelling. When deputies arrived at the residence they located two large crudely made green houses filled with marijuana plants. Additionally, Sergeant Ray Framstad located a Butane Honey Oil (BHO) oven, processing center, and several pressurized butane canisters at the residence. Due to the complex dangers of removing the wax from the pressurized oven, Sergeant Framstad contacted the local task force and Fresno HIDTA to break down the BHO lab.

Fresno’s High Impact Investigation team responded and broke down the manufacturing room with the help of MAGNET. Investigators recovered 1.76 pounds of concentrated cannabis with a value of approximately $60 per gram or $50,000 total.

BHO is a wax concentrated cannabis extract made by pushing liquid butane (which liquefies easily) through a tube packed with frosty buds. The resulting solution is a mix of concrete oils, waxes, cannabinoids, terpenoids, and sometimes chlorophyll.

The Merced County Sheriff’s Office Arrested 27-year-old Ryan Wood and 28-year-old Brittany Martinez and they were charged with HS 11358 (marijuana cultivation) and HS11359 (possession for sales).


On Wednesday, June 27th, 2018, the Merced Police Department’s Disruptive Area Response Team (DART) officers responded to a Craigslist advertisement selling illegal fireworks. DART officers met with Christopher Hamby at The Home Depot  parking lot in the city of Merced. Officers arrested Christopher Hamby (22) of Turlock, Ca.

Hamby was arrested for selling illegal fireworks, possession of illegal fireworks and advertisement of illegal fireworks. Hamby was booked at the Merced County Jail.

Merced Police are asking anyone with any information regarding this crime to contact Sgt. Solis at (209) 385-4703 or the Merced PD Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to police department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “Comvip” as the “keyword” in the text message.


On June 22, 2018 the Merced County Sheriff’s Office conducted three marijuana investigations in regards to illegal marijuana grows throughout Merced County. Two of the investigations were noticed by Sheriff Vern Warnke who utilized the use of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit helicopter. Sheriff Warnke spotted the suspected marijuana grows from the air and took several photographs of the properties which assisted deputies who completed these investigations. The collaboration between the Sheriff, Aviation Unit, Detective Bureau and deputies lead to many successful operations each week.

Based on pictures, you can clearly see the marijuana plants were found spaced evenly and planted in the same manner seen at more several grow sites this year. Often times subjects involved in the illegal cultivation, packaging and distribution of marijuana commonly attempt to conceal their growing operation(s) to avoid detection from law enforcement. Residential marijuana gardens are typically concealed by plastic, tarps and camouflage netting; makeshift fencing and false walls on the property. This concealment method is also an attempt to prevent other subject(s) from committing acts of violence in an attempt to steal the marijuana plants.

During the three marijuana investigations completed today, two subjects were arrested during investigation for the violations of H&S 11358 and MMC 9.29.060.

Deputies confiscated more than 250 pounds of dried and processed marijuana and eradicated 150 outdoor plants from the large greenhouses, and took custody of several firearms.

CALIFORNIA PROPOSITION 64 INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW: On November 9, 2016 California approved proposition 64 to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana. State law defines the amount of marijuana that a qualified patient or their primary caregiver can possess and cultivate. Adults over the age of 21 can cultivate up to six plants per residence and possess the marijuana produced by these plants. All plants and harvest in excess of one ounce must be kept in a locked space not in public view at one’s residence. Local governance may forbid all outdoor cultivation, but must allow it inside a private residence or accessory structure that is “fully enclosed and secure.” Merced county enforces the following cultivation restrictions found in county ordinance section 9.29.060; (1) outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana is prohibited in all areas of the county, (2) indoor cultivation is limited to 6 plants per residence and must be contained within a single private residence or within a fully enclosed structure, secured by lock and key or other security device that is inaccessible to minors, (3) cultivation must comply with building and construction code, title 16, (4) cultivation cannot be conducted in a manner that constitutes a public nuisance and (5) primary use of the property must remain at all times a residence.


On June 20, 2018 at about 4:30 pm, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Bureau took 24-year-old Juan Ceja-Prado of Planada into custody. Ceja-Prado was the primary suspect in the double homicide that took place at the taco truck in Planada earlier this year. The Detectives Bureau served a search warrant on Ceja-Prado’s residence.

Ceja-Prado was arrested when he reported into probation later that day.
Sheriff Vern Warnke and the Merced County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Community of Planada for their help over the past few months. With the Community and Sheriff’s Office working together, we have been able to take criminals like Ceja-Prado off the streets and in return the crime in Planada has decreased significantly. Between October 1, 2017 and June 15, 2018, The Sheriff’s Office has noticed a decrease of about 80% in gang related crimes in Planada. Below is the breakdown of call volume.

October 1, 2017 to March 26, 2018
Reason for Calls: Number Of Calls:

Penal Code 246 – Shooting at an Inhabited Dwelling or Occupied Car – 5

Penal Code 245 – Assault with a deadly weapon – 4

Call for Service Code 232 – Suspected Shots Fired – 17

March 26, 2018 to June 15, 2018
Reason for Calls: Number Of Calls:

Penal Code 246 – Shooting at an Inhabited Dwelling or Occupied Car – 1

Penal Code 245 – Assault with a deadly weapon – 1

Call for Service Code 232 – Suspected Shots Fired – 8

If you have any information regarding a crime that has occurred, please contact the Merced County Sheriff’s Office at (209) 385-7445. You can remain anonymous and your tip could help in solving a crime and bring justice to criminals.


On June 1, 2018 a group of Officers were assigned to work at the Pacheco High School Graduation when they were alerted that someone was tampering with vehicles in the parking lot.

When the Officers got to the parking lot, they noticed several vehicles had been vandalized with spray paint graffiti. Officers began checking the rest of the parking lot and located 19-year-old Josiah Collins, of Dos Palos, as he was spray painting a vehicle. After Collins was placed under arrest, Officers discovered approximately 33 vehicles which had been vandalized.

Collins was booked into the Los Banos Police Department Jail, pending $5,000.00 bail, charged with felony vandalism. The Police Department would like to thank the concerned citizens who took the time to report this incident.

Anyone who was victimized during this incident but has not had the opportunity to make a police report may call the department at (209) 827-7070. If you have already filed a police report but need to get your vehicle repaired, please don’t forget to provide a copy of the vehicle repair estimate to us.

To leave an anonymous crime tip call (209) 827-7070, ext. 288. If you have access to a computer and the internet you can also leave an anonymous tip at the Police Department’s web page at 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


Sergeant Ray Framstad and the Merced County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Team were busy on Saturday serving six (6) search warrants throughout the county. During the search warrants, the Marijuana Enforcement Team eradicated 3887 marijuana plants, destroyed 115 pounds of finished product, and seized eight (8) guns.

Sheriff Vern Warnke wants to remind everyone that the Merced County Sheriff’s Office will be enforcing the cultivation laws regarding marijuana that the county has put in place starting in 2018. All outdoor marijuana grows are illegal and will be dealt with immediately and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Additionally, you are only allowed to grow 6 plants indoors. If you have questions about the laws regarding cultivation and possession of marijuana, please call the Merced County Sheriff’s Office 209-385-7445.

The new County Cannabis Ordinance details are as follows:
***Personal Cultivation Restrictions reasonably regulated (Ord. 9.29.060):
***Personal use cannabis plants limited from twelve (12) to six (6)
***Cultivation can occur in either 1) within a single private residence; or 2) inside a fully enclosed and secure structure located upon the grounds of a private residence. Outdoor cultivation of any type, on any parcel is prohibited.
***Cultivation must comply with Building and Construction Code, Title 16.
Cultivation cannot be conducted in a manner that constitutes a public nuisance.
***Enforcement – penalty/consequences for noncompliance unchanged from previous Medical Marijuana Cultivation ordinance
***Administrative Penalties for unlawful cannabis cultivation(Ordinance 9.29.083)
***All violations deemed a misdemeanor; Sheriff has ability to abate unlawful cannabis cultivation (Ord. 9.29.200)


Illegal fireworks are a zero tolerance in the City of Merced, Use a skyrocket or a barrel bomb and it could cost you up to $2,000. Keep using illegal fireworks or sell them and it could land you in court, as three men learned Friday.

Three men were arrested for sale of illegal fireworks Friday as part of the City of Merced’s Zero Tolerance campaign on illegal fireworks.

Officers from the DART team arrested two Livingston men and a Winton man on charges of selling illegal fireworks, advertisement of illegal fireworks and conspiracy to sell illegal fireworks. The following are the three men arrested, Jatinder Tumber 24-year-old, of Livingston, Baj Singh Chahal, 24-year-old, of Winton and Gurjit Singh 24-year-old, of Livingston.

Officers seized a large amount of fireworks and $666 in cash in an undercover operation. The three men were booked in the Merced County Jail.


This year the City of Merced has Zero Tolerance for illegal fireworks in an effort to cut down on fires, injuries, noise, lost pets and neighborhood disruptions.

The Zero Tolerance Policy is in effect for any fireworks not labelled “safe and sane” by the California State Fire Marshall. Basically, if it explodes or leaves the ground, it’s not safe and sane.

Extra officers will be on patrol over the Fourth of July holidays to enforce fireworks violations. There also is a special phone number and email for people to report illegal fireworks.

“The last few years Merced has looked like a battle zone with the sky lit up with skyrocket and the air-filled with explosions. It’s time for that to end,” said Council Member Kevin Blake, who asked for the increase