In the early morning hours of 7-29-2002, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputies saw a black GMC pickup that they believed to be suspicious (the license number came back to another type of car). The vehicle pulled into the driveway of a home in southwest Modesto, backed up out of the driveway, rammed the deputies’ patrol car and sped off. The patrol vehicle was damaged and unable to follow.
Sergeant Steve May, a 23 year veteran, was driving his patrol car south on S. Santa Cruz Avenue at 1:45 a.m. Officers had spotted the suspect vehicle in the downtown area of Modesto going eastbound on Yosemite and followed it into the airport district. A patrol officer noticed the vehicle parked on Mono Drive and Santa Rosa. When the officer turned on Mono Drive, the suspect vehicle sped away eastbound on Mono Drive at estimated speeds of 60-65 miles per hour. The suspect ran two stop signs on Mono Drive, evading police. Investigation has revealed that the pickup truck was reported stolen on 7-27-2002. In running the stop sign, the suspect impacted Sgt. May’s patrol car.
After the impact, Sergeant May’s patrol car was pushed into a tree in the front yard at 306 S. Santa Cruz, and the suspect vehicle hit the house at 306 S. Santa Cruz. The suspect was killed instantly. A resident in the house sustained minor injury.
The sergeant was trapped inside of his car after it came to rest. Modesto Police, Firefighters and Stanislaus County Consolidated Fire, were finally able to free Sgt. May from the vehicle about 40 minutes later using the jaws of life. AMR stood by, caring for Sgt. May while waiting for him to be freed. Sgt. May was rushed to Memorial Medical Center suffering from major injuries including a fractured skull, fractures to his face and jaw, left clavicle, right forearm, and left leg.
In the early hours of May 21, 1973, Officer Leo “Bobby” Volk, a three-year veteran of the Modesto Police Department, began pursuing a fugitive vehicle. As Volk accelerated westbound on Yosemite Boulevard in pursuit, a car turning from North Conejo Avenue pulled out in front of him. Volk, in an attempt to avoid a collision,,swerved to the left. The right front tire of his patrol car deflated, causing him to lose control. The patrol car skidded south across Yosemite Boulevard into a construction site where it hit a large concrete block. The force of the collision was so severe that the car was thrown into reverse, causing it to accelerate 130 feet backwards before hitting a light pole and coming to rest. The driver of the vehicle Volk was chasing looked back at the battered patrol car, then sped away.
Volk was pinned in the wreckage for 40 minutes before rescue crews could remove him and rush him to the hospital. During that time he regained consciousness but was only able to say “chasing . . . orange GTO”. The driver of the car was never found, and the crime he committed to cause Volk to pursue him remains unknown.
At 7:30 a.m. on May 21, 1973, Officer Leo Robert Volk Jr. died from injuries sustained in the wreck, leaving his wife and toddler son behind. He gained the unfortunate distinction of being the first officer to die in the line of duty in the history of the Modesto Police Department. His badge was retired from service.