Two men were arrested at a Ceres convenience store early Sunday on auto theft charges after police became suspicious of the men who ran the car out of gas.
After midnight, someone reported a beige Toyota on Moore Road between Service and Rhode roads that appeared to be out of gas. Officer Ross Bays located the car parked at the Chevron/7-Eleven gas station with the hood up. Driver Andrew Huddleston, 34, of Hughson, acted suspicious and was detained. While awaiting backup, Bays learned that Huddleston was on searchable probation. He compared the vehicle identification number listed on the license registration with the VIN attached to the Toyota and found they did not match. A further check noted that the VIN on the car was reported stolen out of Turlock. The Toyota yielded a license plate belonging to a different vehicle, along with a "Slim-Jim," a tool used to unlock vehicles by manipulating the interior lock linkages of the doors. The key found in the ignition was part of a locksmith kit used as a universal key to manipulate locks.
Huddleston denied knowing the car was stolen but was arrested for auto theft.
Meanwhile, a bystander told police that the man standing in front of the AM/PM across the street, who was holding a yellow gas can asking for money, had been with Huddleston. Also on probation, John Mendiola, 42, of Turlock, was detained and initially uncooperative with police. Mendiola then said he is homeless, was recently released from jail and only trying to get gas for the car he and Huddleston were riding in. Police believe the two men were acting in concert to get the stolen car running again so they could ride in it. Both were arrested.
The owner of the car said it had been taken from his Turlock driveway on July 5. He said several items of his were missing from the car and that several things were damaged.
Charges are being sought against Huddleston and Mendiola for felony auto theft and possession of stolen property.