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Stolen Bus Lands In Oakdale
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CHP officers fill out paperwork outside the AC Transit bus stolen from San Francisco on Friday morning, finally stopped just west of Oakdale along Highway 120. The bus stopped due to severe tire damage caused by a spike strip in Escalon. One man was taken into custody. Marg Jackson/The Leader

Covering about 100 miles altogether, a spike strip put down by the California Highway Patrol at the main intersection in Escalon didn’t stop a stolen AC Transit bus there … but it did enough damage to the tires to force the driver to go off the roadway just before reaching Oakdale.

The bus, stolen out of a terminal in San Francisco, ended up off Highway 120 near Cleveland Avenue a few miles west of Oakdale on Friday morning. The spike strip was put down along Highway 120 at a major intersection in Escalon. Traffic was held up there as CHP units awaited the arrival of the bus, which traveled primarily at speeds of 55 to 60 mph on its journey from the Bay area to the Valley.

When it was over, a San Francisco man was taken into custody and ultimately booked into San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of grand theft, reckless driving and failure to yield.

Escalon Police were notified of the impending chase coming through the community, with the bus driver failing to yield to multiple CHP units after the pursuit began near the French Camp Road exit off Highway 99.

Justin Moss, 29, was booked at San Joaquin County Jail in connection with the theft of the AC (Alameda – Contra Costa) Transit bus on Friday. He was taken into custody without further incident just before 10:30 a.m. along Highway 120.

According to the CHP report, Stockton California Highway Patrol Officers received a BOL – Be on the Lookout – for the stolen bus out of San Francisco about 9:45 a.m. on July 19.

Officers responded to the area, said CHP Public Information Officer James Smith, and located the vehicle on Highway 120 eastbound near Highway 99. Due to safety concerns for some construction workers in the area, officers waited to initiate an enforcement stop on the vehicle as it traveled northbound on 99.

Smith said the bus exited Highway 99 at French Camp Road and officers attempted to stop it, but the vehicle did not yield. Officer Gustavo Arellano, the lead investigator in the case, said the pursuit continued eastbound along Highway 120.

Arellano said the stolen bus was not speeding, going roughly an average of 55 to 60 mph during the pursuit, which started outside Manteca, went through Escalon and ended near Oakdale.

“We had multiple units in pursuit, all CHP, put down the spike strip in Escalon,” Arellano said.

When the bus could not go any further, due to the extensive tire damage on one side, it pulled over off Highway 120 near the intersection with Cleveland Avenue about three miles west of Oakdale.

“When he pulled over, he was compliant,” Arellano said of the suspect – who was wearing pants but no shirt – offering no resistance.

Officers conducted a felony traffic stop, taking the suspect into custody at gunpoint. There were no weapons found on the bus and no injuries to anyone involved. Smith said the pursuit covered about 19 miles and lasted for about 20 minutes.

Allen Perry, a road supervisor with AC Transit who lives in Tracy and was on his morning off, was near his home headed to an auto parts store when he heard the report about the stolen bus and within just a couple of minutes, spotted it on the highway.

“It was stolen out of a temporary terminal in San Francisco,” Perry said of the 2003 Belgium-built 40-foot long bus. “It was reported to the SFPD at about 9:40 a.m.”

The bus had been in service for the early morning commute, Perry said, then parked at the terminal and put on standby status to fill in where needed. It was going to be towed back to San Francisco, due for repairs and a safety check before being put back in service.

Authorities said there is a specific protocol to follow to operate the bus, so they suspect Moss had some prior knowledge of the system. They also said a GPS system on board helped police track the vehicle.