Search continues for suspected Atwater car thieves

Atwater police shut down the 1100 block of Vine Street for more than an hour Monday while searching for two suspected car thieves.

The men escaped, Atwater police Lt. Samuel Joseph said.

The owner of a 1999 Mercury Cougar reported the car was stolen about 4:30 a.m. Monday, police said.

Later in the day, the owner, whose name was not available, apparently spotted his car about noon being driven on Olive Avenue and two men inside. He called police and followed the vehicle to an apartment complex on Vine Street, officers said.

“The suspects then began walking towards him in an aggressive manner,” Joseph said. “The dispatcher told the victim to leave the area for his safety as officers were on their way.”

Police spotted two men matching the owner’s descriptions in the area, but they ran away, officers said.

Officers blocked off the area and, with the assistance of the Merced County Sheriff’s K9 Unit, attempted to find the men. After a while, the search was called off, Joseph said.

The vehicle was released to the victim, police said.

Both men were described as Latinos in their 20s. One was 6 feet tall with a thin build who was last seen wearing a red baseball cap and a white t-shirt. The second man was described only as short.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Atwater Police Department at (209) 357-6396. Callers may remain anonymous.