A man accused of stealing a high-powered rifle from Big 5 Sporting Goods on Hatch Road was arrested by Ceres Police hours later.
The store manager called 9-1-1 at 12:06 p.m. on Saturday to report that a Hispanic man came inside the store and asked to look at some “AR style” .22 caliber rifles. The manager showed the man two rifles who then asked to see a green bolt action .308 caliber rifle equipped with a scope and bipod. The manager unlocked the rifle and handed it to the man who immediately announced “I’m taking this one” and ran out the door. The manager watched the thief jump into the passenger seat of 1999 gold Chrysler driven by an older female with dark hair. The Chrysler fled the parking lot and turned west on Hatch Road. The manager was able to take down the license which traced to a woman at 2601 Riverdale Road.
Officer Charles Rushing went to the home and saw the Chrysler parked in front. Officer Rushing spoke to a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputy in the area who said he had prior contacts with 38-year-old Mark Anthony Mata of Modesto at the residence. Officer Jeremy Caron was shown a prior booking photo of Mata and positively identified him as the suspect from the surveillance video.
After waiting for several hours outside the house, Mata left the house to walk down the street with the rifle and was arrested.
The rifle was returned to the store.
Mata has an extensive criminal history with prior felony convictions. He is also currently pending felony criminal proceedings. Mata was booked into the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center for theft and possession of a stolen firearm without incident.