Two teenagers were arrested Thursday on suspicion of attempted murder after a gang-related shooting the night before that left a 22-year-old Lodi man hospitalized.
The male suspects, ages 16 and 17, did not know the victim. They apparently confronted and shot him simply because he was wearing a red belt, said Lodi Police Detective Tim Fritz.
The gunshot caused internal injuries to Jose Frias, police said. He was listed in serious condition at Lodi Memorial Hospital.
Frias is not a documented gang member, and it appears that he was targeted because he happened to be wearing one piece of red in an area of town occupied by gang members who wear blue, Fritz said.
At 7:25 p.m. Wednesday, Frias was near the intersection of Elm Street and Central Avenue when at least three people approached him, said Sgt. Fernando Martinez. One asked Frias if he "gang-bangs," and then one of the people fired one shot into his torso, Martinez said.
Police did not know if Frias responded before the gun was fired. By Thursday they were still unable to interview him because he was sedated due to his injuries.
Gang investigators spent hours following leads Thursday, ultimately arresting one teen in Lodi and the other in Acampo, then booking them into juvenile hall. Police did not release the suspects' names due to privacy laws regarding minors.
Fritz said Wednesday's shooting does not appear to be related to a fight that started this weekend at a quinceañera.
That dispute spilled into Church Street outside St. Anne's Hall on Saturday night, with several people being injured and fleeing, later arriving at the hospital. A few hours later, a girl who had attended the birthday party was shot in the lower leg on East Elm Street.
Wednesday night's shooting also does not seem to be connected to a shooting the previous weekend, when a Stockton Street man was hit by bird shot at his home.
The two cases did have one similarity, though, Fritz said: Both victims happened to be wearing red. The Stockton Street victim was wearing a red baseball cap, and Wednesday's victim wore a red belt, Fritz said.
"It came down to someone wearing the wrong color in the wrong area," he said.
Lodi has two troublesome gangs — the Norteños, who wear red, and the Sureños, who wear blue.
Police usually see gang activity increase when the weather gets warmer and people linger outside.
Investigators are still looking for additional witnesses to the Wednesday shooting, a weapon and more leads in the other recent gang activity. Anyone with information may call Lodi police at 333-6727.