Central Avenue is quiet, save for a few mothers and toddlers bundled up in sweaters, walking hand-in-hand down the sidewalk that is lightly caked with yellow, brown and red leaves. A car or two passes by, the drivers looking ahead, seemingly unaware of what took place two weeks ago.
The scene was not much different for Lodi resident Shedley Frazier Jr., who was walking north on Central Avenue on the sunny, crisp afternoon of Nov. 16, when he was gunned down by a group of Hispanic males that had been following him.
Frazier, 20, died that day on that quiet street, and while police have arrested one 14-year-old male in connection with Frazier’s murder, the shooter and the gun are still at large.
“This was not random ... they made sure he was not coming back,” said Malaaika Cheadle, Frazier’s eldest sister. “They should not have killed my brother.”
A tragic ending to a tough childhood, Frazier faced numerous challenges throughout his life.
But family members said no matter how hard things got, Frazier always had a way of making people smile.
And until his untimely death, Frazier had a plan to improve his life.
Looking for stability
Frazier was born on Dec. 22, 1990 in Sacramento.
The fourth of seven children, Frazier was also the second-youngest boy.
He and his siblings spent much of their first years shuffling back and forth between his grandmother’s home and his mother’s home as Frazier’s mother struggled with multiple personal problems, said Cheadle and Celena Frazier, Frazier’s younger sister.
Frazier’s father was not present much of the time either, Celena Frazier said.
When Frazier was roughly seven years old, his grandmother decided that after extensive problems with Frazier’s mother, it would be best if Frazier and his siblings were put in the foster care system, Celena Frazier said.
The siblings initially lived in a home together in Sacramento, but after only a few months they were separated. Celena Frazier said her brother was moved to the Stockton-Lodi area, where he was then moved around foster homes frequently.
The siblings lost communication with one another, Celena Frazier said, until one day when Celena Frazier, then 11 years old, walked into the Lodi Boys and Girls Club and saw a familiar face.
“I looked over, and saw this boy playing video games,” she said. “And I just knew it was him.”
Frazier, a frequent visitor to the Boys and Girls Club, could usually be found either playing video games, which he loved, Celena Frazier said, or outside playing basketball.
Frazier, also known as “Lee” to the staff and friends, was known for being a mentor for younger children at the club as well, Celena Frazier said. She said if younger children ever needed someone to stick up for them or if they just needed someone to talk to, Frazier was there.
“He was very personable and always had a smile on his face,” said president and CEO Richard Jones.
While Frazier provided support for others, he did not necessarily have support of his own.
Constantly shuffled between group foster homes, Frazier attended multiple high schools, from Tokay High School to Ronald E. McNair High School, Celena Frazier said.
She added that Frazier was a good student, and even wrestled for McNair at one point, a sport he had been passionate about since he was little.
Celena Frazier said as a child, Frazier could be found deeply engrossed in watching WWE matches, proclaiming that he one day wanted to be one of the wrestling stars.
Wrestling in high school was fitting, Celena Frazier said. A team provided a support network that Frazier had been looking for, and it also fueled his life-long love of the sport.
But stability from school would not last long.
When Frazier was in his senior year of high school, he was moved to a foster home in Stockton, Celena Frazier said. Shortly thereafter, she added, he dropped out of high school with 50 credits remaining.
A tragic end
Once Frazier turned 18, he moved out of his foster home and began living with friends in Lodi or staying part-time with family. He worked odd jobs — including mowing lawns — as he moved from place to place, looking for a way to make ends meet.
Finally, Frazier joined the San Joaquin sector of YouthBuild U.S.A., a program that helps low-income youths work full-time for six to 24 months toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, while learning job skills by building affordable housing in their communities.
Frazier worked with YouthBuild for a while, traveling by bus to get to and from the construction site, but Celena Frazier said after a time he stopped going because he kept missing his stops or falling asleep on the bus.
He returned to his roots by volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, where he was worked to complete community service hours for a DUI arrest from roughly two months ago, Jones said.
Also, Frazier began talking seriously about joining the U.S. Army, something he had been considering for some time but never acted on, Celena Frazier said.
She stated she believed he had met with recruiters once, but never knew what came of the meeting and believed that he did not meet with recruiters again.
“He was really just looking for a stable home,” she said. “That was his real issue.”
She added that she and other siblings offered to take him in while he got his life back on track. She said Frazier showed interest, but always ended up leaving, stressing that he needed to retrieve his clothes and personal belongings.
And while Celena Frazier said it was hard seeing her brother struggle, she said she never expected him to be killed.
She said she found out her brother had been killed while she watched the evening report on Channel 10. She heard that someone had been shot on the street near where Frazier lived, and thought that she might catch a glimpse of her brother. But then she heard the victim’s name — it was Frazier.
“It was almost surreal,” she said. “He did not like fighting or arguing. He got along with everyone. And then to find out that gang members shot and killed him? It didn’t make sense.”
Celena Frazier and her eldest sister, Malaaika Cheadle, started a Facebook memorial page for Frazier, posting pictures and allowing friends and family to write messages about the 20-year-old who had struggled to find stability his whole life, and yet despite so much hardship had managed to stay upbeat.
Of the numerous posts on the public page, nearly every comment references Frazier’s enduring positivity and how he could make anyone laugh.
Cheadle said Frazier’s murder has taken a heavy toll on her family, and that despite her desire to remain positive like Frazier once did, she still wonders “what if.”
“Every day, I ask myself, ‘Why?’” Cheadle said. “He was a good person who always wanted to help others. I feel like he was maybe trying to fight someone else’s battle.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.