Robbery arrest douses teen's future with fire department

Isaac Garcia, 19, was set to become a volunteer firefighter with the Patterson Fire Department until he was arrested on suspicion of robbery and hit-and-run

By Deke Farrow
The Modesto Bee

PATTERSON, Calif. — The Patterson Fire Department had a badge and name tag waiting for Isaac Garcia.

But given his arrest Wednesday night on suspicion of robbery and hit-and-run, the 19-year-old Patterson resident won't be wearing them.

The process already has begun to terminate Garcia's volunteer firefighter status with the department, Fire Chief Jeff Gregory said Thursday afternoon. "He still is listed as a probationary firefighter, and we don't tolerate even the slightest accusation. We have a lot of good people and we don't need even one bad one to tarnish the department."

The robbery occurred on Wednesday at a residence on the 600 block of Balsam Drive in Newman. Crystal Miguel said her 21-year-old son and two friends were smoking marijuana in the garage of her home when Garcia, who is known to them but was not invited or expected, arrived.

Her son opened a gate for Garcia, who then forced his way past and into the garage. Her son had welts on his arm from the gate striking him, and a welt on his abdomen from where Garcia held a gun to him. Miguel said.

Garcia grabbed some marijuana and ran, she said. He struck her son's car with his own while driving away. He dropped the gun, which turned out not to be real, Miguel said.

She said Garcia wore a dark blue volunteer firefighter uniform. Newman Police Department Chief Randy Richardson said Thursday morning, "Indications are that the suspect had on a 'Fire' T-shirt. At this time, I cannot confirm if it said 'Patterson Fire' on it."

Garcia was issued a Patterson Fire Department T-shirt as he went through an eight-month training program conducted by the West Stanislaus County Fire Protection District, Gregory said.

Garcia had met the requirements to pass the academy, the chief said. Before being allowed to start with Patterson Fire, recruits undergo a Department of Justice background check, which Garcia also passed.

Still, the department had concerns. Garcia also was in the Modesto Junior College Fire Academy, and the director of the program contacted Patterson Fire to inquire about the student's recent drop in attendance and participation. "So we were trying to reach out to Isaac to find out what was going on," Gregory said.

She doesn't know Garcia, Miguel said, but Googled him. Online, "he looks like he's a good kid," she said. "Football player, graduated from Patterson High, he's a firefighter recruit. I don't understand what he's doing."

Copyright 2018 The Modesto Bee

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