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High-speed chase of stolen Jeep ends in crash near school
Ceres Cop Car

A 34-year-old Ceres man is in custody after ramming a stolen Jeep Cherokee into a pursuing Ceres Police vehicle during a pursuit on Wednesday morning.

The crash occurred near Caswell Elementary School on Central Avenue.

James Sass, 34, of Ceres, was booked on charges of auto theft, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of stolen property and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

The incident unfolded when officers with the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force (StanCATT) asked Ceres Police to help stop a stolen vehicle being watched as it was parked on McKittrick Court. While en route at 8:42 a.m., Sass climbed into the silver 2004 Jeep Cherokee and took off westbound on Kinser Road to Morgan Road. The car was followed onto northbound Morgan Road to Whitmore Avenue where Sass pulled into the Vineyard gas station.

Officer Ross Bays spotted the stolen vehicle in the parking lot at the Vineyard and attempted to initiate a stop but Sass accelerated eastbound on Whitmore Avenue then made a left turn onto northbound Central Avenue, speeding passed Ceres High School. Traffic was clear so Bays attempted to initiate a PIT maneuver on the car at Central Avenue and Evans Road to stop the car. Sass intentionally steered the vehicle to ram Bays' patrol car while trying the PIT.

"An unknown citizen driving a Toyota Prius actually tried to block the running suspect with his car to assist the officer," said Ceres Police Department spokesman Lt. Chris Perry.

The suspect then ran from the westbound on Evans Road to Margaret Way where he ran through an open gate and continued westbound in an alley. Sass tried unsuccessfully to open another gate but turned around to take a fighting stance with Bays who ran up to him. Officer Bays tackled the suspect to the ground where he and other officers took Sass into custody.

Bays' patrol car was disabled in the collision with a broken tie rod, bent rim and flat tire.

The Jeep sustained a broken rear axle.

Lt. Perry said he believes the suspect had keys to the vehicle, saying both the keys and vehicle were taken in a prior residential burglary.