Vigilant neighbor interrupts car theft attempt, police say

VISALIA — On the morning of October 21, Dwayne Barton stopped an attempted car theft—and nearly got run over for his good deed.

Before dawn on Tuesday morning, Barton was in the 3600 block of W. Hillsdale in Visalia when he noticed two men doing something inside a parked car. But he recognized that the men weren’t the owner he had seen previously driving the car, according to Visalia Police Lt. Ed Lynn.

The men told Barton that it was their car, but he insisted it wasn’t. Turns out the car belonged to Steven Brown of Visalia, who lives in the area, but was neither of the men reportedly breaking into the car that morning.

Apparently unhappy at the interruption, the men got into a compact red car and yelled at Barton that they were going to run him over, saying Barton had better “get the hell out of the way,” or the driver would “run (Barton’s) ass over,” according to Lt. Lynn.

As he tried to write down the license plate number of their getaway car, they followed through on that threat, putting the car in reverse and nearly running him over.

Barton was untouched, but the red car got away, according to Lt. Lynn.

Visalia Police Officer Gilson was on his way to the scene of the incident when he noticed a car fitting the description and pulled the vehicle over. When he stopped them, he saw that there was a car stereo in the vehicle. He took the car’s occupants, Matthew Mathias, 38, and Stephen Vasquez, 18, both of Visalia, back to W. Hillsdale, where Barton identified them as the men he saw breaking into the car.

Visalia Police Officer Walsh was already at the scene, where a metal tool was stuck into the ignition of the car.

Mathias and Vasquez were charged with attempted car theft, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon and making terrorist threats and were booked into the Tulare County Jail.

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