Planada pharmacy burglary leads to statewide chase

PLANADA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Four suspects were arrested after a burglary in Merced County led to a chase that ended hours later in Sacramento.

Authorities arrested Christina Gamez, 23, from Mendota, along with Andrion Navarrete-Mendoza, 21, and Miguel Valencia, 19, from Fresno. A 17-year-old from Fresno was also arrested.

The group is accused of trying to steal large amounts of opiate medications from the San Joaquin Pharmacy in Planada.

Sheriff Vern Warnke said Deputy Chris Chilton was responding to an alarm at the pharmacy on Wednesday morning. When he arrived, he saw the criminals running out of the store and into a BMW. Chilton started chasing the suspects.

"They hit Highway 140 and Highway 99. They hit speeds up to 90 mph. Deputy Chilton told me they at one time they could've been up to 120 mph," Sheriff Warnke said.

The California Highway Patrol took over the chase until they were able to stop the suspects with spike strips.

Pharmacy co-owner Katie Bass said this is their fourth burglary. They've added more cameras, Plexiglas, and overall protection to keep the criminals out.

"We opened the store wanting to help the community. I know that's what my dad's intention was, and that's been my intention, it makes it hard to want to stay here and work," Bass said.

She said deputies were still investigating the shop when she heard the criminals were arrested.

"These criminals know they can get caught so quickly, and the consequences that come with getting caught. Hopefully, it deters them from coming back again," Bass said.

Sheriff Warnke said the faster response comes from recently adding more deputies to the department, "Our staffing levels have improved greatly, so even our rural parts of the county are being covered very well by our patrol."

The three suspects were booked into the Merced County jail while the 17-year-old was booked into the juvenile correction center. The suspects left a crowbar and a cell phone at the scene.

Deputies said the investigation into the burglary is still ongoing.
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