A 17-year-old Lodi boy who was attacked last week for no apparent reason is on a liquid diet for six weeks due to a broken jaw, and his parents are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Police have made no arrests and say the victim did not provoke the June 15 assault.
"In my entire career here, I've never felt more sorry for someone," said Cpl. Roger Butterfield, an 18-year veteran. "This was a nice kid that was just coming home. They literally dented his skull, broke his eye socket and broke his jaw."
The boy was bicycling home from a friend's house around 1 a.m. that Friday when he reached a park on Century Boulevard between Mills Avenue and Ham Lane. About half a dozen youths surrounded him and one said, "Nice hat," according to police.
The hat wasn't gang or even sports-related - it was a dark fedora with pin stripes, said the victim's father, who asked that his name not be used in order to protect his son's identity.
Butterfield doesn't think stealing a hat was the motive, though the hat is missing.
During the brief assault, one of the youths took the victim's cell phone, but another one intervened, said they'd done enough and gave the phone back, Butterfield said.
The victim was taken to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where he was hospitalized overnight. Doctors wired his jaw shut, and he has since returned twice for further medical procedures, his father said.
He is restricted to drinking liquids for the next six weeks and is not supposed to talk too much. It's hard to get enough protein through such a diet, so he doesn't have a lot of energy, his father said.
The family has raised $1,000 for a reward leading to an arrest, and the father said the recipient may remain anonymous.
"It's the only thing I can think of that can find this kid," the victim's father said. "They've probably been bragging about it, or maybe feeling badly about it, so maybe someone heard something."
The victim thinks there were six young people involved, and that three of them actually hit him. He's not sure where they came from, but saw a vehicle leaving, possibly a sport-utility vehicle.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Lodi police at 333-6727. Anonymous calls may be made to Lodi-Area Crime Stoppers at 333-6771.