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Video shows nobody willing to help sergeant during 7-Eleven arrest
Bystanders and clerks inside the 7-Eleven store on Herndon Avenue watched as Sgt. James Yandell struggled to subdue a suspect who seconds earlier was armed with a loaded handgun. Two customers were standing at the counter, one holding two packs of beer, and watching the fight. Others stood by and offered no assistance to Yandell. One, however, had time to videotape the fight on his cell phone which was later posted on You Tube.

The incident has prompted shock from some in the community and sparked a debate about when it's appropriate to help an officer in distress.

"It just makes me wonder what we're doing out there," said Ceres Police Lt. Brent Smith. "You look at that and say what the heck? I wouldn't have minded the help to subdue this person. It was just a hands-on street fight, that's all it was. Somebody could have just sat on him and helped."

Smith's comments that "no one bothered to help" published in last week's Courier article on the incident prompted one reader to ask when should citizens help officers. His query resulted in Chief of Police Art deWerk's column in today's edition (page A5).

"I do not suggest physically jumping into a situation where a suspect is physically resisting arrest and fighting the officer unless specifically called upon by the officer to do so," said deWerk. However, the chief also stated that "I have seen citizens, time and time again, make the right decisions about when and how to help. It boils down to common sense and a willingness to get involved."

The two minute, 54-second video (titled "Ceres CA police choked a tweaker" on youtube) shows Yandell, 39, wrestling with 20-year-old suspect Miguel Loza, of Turlock, as the two slam into merchandise racks, knocking product on the floor. Bystanders either flee or do nothing as both grow winded and fall to the ground, As Yandell puts a choke hold on Loza, two clerks stay put behind the counter. The man who shot the video offers only advice to the suspect to give up. Loza's shirt has been ripped loose as Yandell pins him to the ground, unable to handcuff him by himself. Eventually sirens are heard after the struggle falls outside the front glass doors. Only until the arrival of reserve officer and former Sgt. Allan McKay is the Loza - who by now has a bloodied face - is handcuffed.

Loza, a felon on probation, was arrested and booked for carrying a loaded concealed handgun, assault on a peace officer, obstructing or delaying an officer and a probation violation.

The incident took place at 1:21 a.m. on Oct. 29 when Yandell spotted Loza drinking beer in front of the store and decided to cite him for drinking in public. Loza put the beer down and tried to dodge Yandell inside the store. Yandell saw Loza place an object on the shelf, which later proved to be a loaded Glock .45 caliber handgun. Yandell tried to arrest Loza but the fight ensued.

Ceres police have publicly shown their appreciation when citizens have got involved to assist officers or others in trouble. On Dec. 18, 2009, private citizen John Ortiz intervened for officer Brinton Moore who struggled to arrest a deranged acting Rodolfo Gaona, 38, of Ceres, at Whitmore Avenue and Boothe Road. Ortiz admits that his first thought was "should I stop and help him?" He jumped into action and feared that arriving officers would mistake him as "one of the bad guys."

Ironically the night before Ortiz assisted Moore he was reading the book, National Sunday Law, that centered on a woman who was stabbed to death while 38 people stood and watched without getting involved.

"As I'm reading this I'm thinking, 'what's our nation coming to that people would stand around and do nothing?'" said Ortiz.

In March the city honored youth pastor Johnny Montalvo for stopping two teens from fighting on Agresti Lane as one of the mothers coached the fight.

Smith said that each person must use common sense on when to get involved.

"There's a lot that goes into that but something like that just to subdue or sit on the guy. The longer you fight and don't have back up the more winded an officer becomes and that's when you up your level of force, whether it be a baton or pepper spray and people can really get hurt. It could be deadly force."