Thieves steal, crash new Meals on Wheels van in East Bay

Friday, May 6, 2016
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A volunteer who begged thieves to not steal a Meals on Wheels van in Fremont Thursday morning says the carjackers didn't care and took it anyway.

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- A Meals on Wheels van was stolen Thursday morning in Fremont. Police say the thieves then crashed the van in Castro Valley. We spoke with one of the volunteers who tried to prevent all of this from happening.

James Vargas' fellow volunteers and staffers are calling him a hero, and rightfully so. He didn't even think about the risks to his own life when he took down one of the carjackers.

After a police chase, it all ended with the van upended at the Redwood Road ramp off Highway 580 in Castro Valley.

The two carjacking suspects were put on gurneys and transported to a hospital.

The chain of events started at Smart & Final in Fremont. A security guard there thwarted the couple's attempt to steal a car.

The two then ran to the parking lot of a city office which houses Meals on Wheels. Volunteers were unloading coolers filled with meals from the van so they could put them into their own cars for delivery.

The couple jumped into the van.

"I was about to grab my cooler and I hear, 'They're taking the truck, they're taking the truck!'" said Vargas.

He then went into action.

"All I see is a red jacket," he said. "So I grab this person and struggle and she's trying to get inside. And I pull her down and take her to the ground and sit on top of her."

Vargas says the woman's companion got out of the van and threatened him with a landscaping tool. As Vargas backed off, he pleaded with them.

"I said, 'Don't take the truck, don't take the truck. We use this for Meals on Wheels, to deliver our meals to seniors,'"

The carjackers didn't care. They took off.

Unfortunately, this was a new van. All they have now is an old backup.

"We use it to deliver meals to isolated, frail seniors that can't get out of the home," said Fremont city worker Aisha Jasper.

Meals that the seniors rely on.

Anyone who would like to help is asked to contact LIFE ElderCare's Executive Director Patricia Osage at 510-314-6365.