A 29-year-old Stockton policeman, chasing a burglary suspect, collapsed and died an hour later at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
Arthur Edward Ford, a Sacramento native who joined the Stockton force in June 1986, had completed job probation just a month ago and had passed two physicals since he was hired.
“This is tough,” said Lt. James Horton, the department watch commander. “He was very, very well regarded by his peers and supervisors.”
Taken into custody for the burglary that led to the 1 ½-mile chase and apparent collapse were Samuel David Robinson, 38, and Robert Hinijos, about 40. Horton said the two had no known occupations.
Ford and his partner, Don Simmons, spotted the two about 3:25 p.m. as they allegedly took building materials from a vacant duplex. The officers were responding to a burglary report.
Horton said Robinson was immediately taken into custody by Ford, but Hinijos fled after a brief scuffle with Simmons. Hinijos ran along the Santa Fe railroad tracks in south Stockton.
According to railroad workers who witnessed the chase and were the first to reach Ford after he collapsed, the patrolman was just reaching the Charter Way overpass when he fell, rose to run a few more steps, then fell again.
“That’s when I got concerned, when he didn’t get up,” said Santa Fe brakeman Kenneth Jones. “When I got to him, there was no pulse and he wasn’t breathing.”
The railroad workers reached Ford and were soon joined by police and fire department paramedics who administered first aid. Other officers captured Hinijos.
Ford was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after 4 p.m. The autopsy report stated that he died of myocarditus, an inflammation of the heart sac.
Police Chief Perline F. “Jack” Calkins delivered news of the patrolman’s death to Ford’s wife, Susan. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Stephanie, 6; and Mehgan, 2.
The burglary suspects remained in custody while investigators and a deputy district attorney reviewed possible charges.
District Attorney John D. Phillips said the suspects probably cannot be charged with any crime involving the officer’s death if it was due to a medical condition.
Horton, however, said an assault or homicide charge has not been ruled out.
“We’re investigating any possibility,” Horton said.
Ford was the first Stockton police officer to die in the line of duty since Nicholas P. “Nick” Cecchetti – son of former Police Chief Julio Cecchetti – was gunned down during a drug raid in August 1978.