A police chase of an auto theft suspect ended early Friday morning when a Ceres police cruiser and the suspect's pickup collided, resulting in a fiery crash in the front yard of a residence.
The suspect, Brian Herzog, 33, of Ceres, escaped the burning vehicle at the intersection of Lunar Drive and Puma Way but not police who arrested him a block away.
Sgt. Pat Sullivan was patrolling the streets of Ceres at 12:07 a.m. when he spotted the suspicious sight of a red Dodge Dakota hauling a white truck cab in the pickup bed, said Ceres Police Lt. Brent Smith. Suspecting that it could have been part of a stolen vehicle, Sgt. Sullivan initiated a traffic stop after the pickup turned onto southbound Moore Road from Whitmore Avenue. However, Herzog accelerated his speed.
The pursuit went onto eastbound Roeding Road at speeds of up to 85 mph, then onto southbound Faith Home Road where the driver began swerving back and forth in an apparent attempt to shake the cab loose onto the roadway in front of Sgt. Sullivan. The white cab eventually wobbled loose into the road where it rolled without taking out Sullivan who dodged it and continued with the pursuit.
While in the 3200 block of Service Road, Herzog drove off the road and nearly came to a stop to let out a passenger who bailed from the pickup and ran. The suspect eluded police after running into an orchard.
The pursuit headed back into east Ceres as Sullivan radioed for backup. Officer Kiashira Ruiz responded and tried to intercept the chase. She was northbound on Lunar Drive with lights and siren activated. At that moment, the pickup and Ruiz's patrol car collided as the suspect sped down eastbound Puma Way. The pickup spun into the yard at the northwest corner of the intersection where it caught fire.
Herzog fled on foot but was captured on nearby Denny Court by Officer Freddie Ortiz. The suspect sustained minor scrapes and bruises in the crash, said Lt. Smith.
Ruiz suffered a laceration on the top of head and was treated at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto. Also treated was 21-year-old police explorer Jesus Lopez who had a complaint of pain in his rib cage.
Herzog was arrested and charged with leading police on a pursuit with injuries and driving on a suspended license. The Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force is investigating the case to determine if auto theft or chop shop charges are to follow.