Mendota man's van stolen by an officer?
MENDOTA, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's been Manuel Aganza's early morning ritual for the past 20 years. He turns on his van to warm up the engine then heads back inside to grab his lunch and a cup of coffee. But last Saturday -- an upsetting surprise when he came back outside. The 60-year-old labor farm contractor says his van was gone so he ran back inside and had his son call 9-1-1.
"He was kind of frantic with his cell phone in his hand worried about what happened to his van," said Cristien Aganza. "And he had to go to work; he has employees who count on him to take them to work and stuff."
Cristien says what happened next was even more shocking, "We've never had a vehicle stolen from our house and the first time it happens, it's a police officer."
Turns out his father's van was partially hidden across the street and standing next to it two Mendota Police officers. Aganza said, "The policeman was saying how we took the vehicle, um you guys had it on -- we want to teach you guys a lesson, we're tired of writing reports."
According to Cristien, corporal Johnny Lemus at one point even threatened to arrest his father or cite him for leaving his car unattended. The family has filed a complaint.
Mendota Police Chief Gerry Galvin: "We will do a complete and thorough investigation and if we have done something wrong we will acknowledge that and will take the appropriate action"
ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says the corporal's conduct was improper -- and makes the city vulnerable to legal action. "If the homeowner broke the law, the officer could have given him a citation or lectured him, but to take his car is beyond the scope of his employment and duties and constitutes harassment."
The Aganza family wants the corporal reprimanded -- and the city to admit a mistake was made. "The most upsetting part is that my dad just had a triple bypass surgery," said son Cristien. "It hasn't even been a year I think and the fact I think they put stress on him seeing that his vehicle was gone. I have respect for the police officers, I'm all for them coming in and trying to clean up this town but you know in the right way."
Chief Gerry Galvin says seven cars have been stolen this month in Mendota. He says leaving a car running on the street is illegal. And officers routinely give people verbal warnings.
mendota, fresno county, local, graciela moreno
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