Homeowner shoots, wounds man
Lodi police: Resident thought man was breaking into house
By Layla Bohm
News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Last updated: Thursday, Nov 02, 2006 - 06:42:30 am PST
A homeowner shot and wounded a drunken man early Wednesday because she thought he was trying to break into her house in southwest Lodi, police said.
Benjamin Ortega, who turned 21 the same day, was hit twice in the 300 block of Finch Run Drive around 1:45 a.m. and hospitalized with what police said were not life-threatening injuries to the leg and abdomen.
The resident, Noelle Fabrizio, 38, fired a total of four shots with her .380-caliber handgun, Officer Dale Eubanks said.
Police found no damage to the home, but they did find a wet spot on the side fence and believe Ortega had entered her property to urinate, Eubanks said.
It was the second time in less than four months that Ortega was arrested after allegedly urinating in public, and the previous incident resulted in a court order that he not consume alcohol until October 2007.
Tests Wednesday showed he had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.27 percent when he was hospitalized after the shooting, Eubanks said. In comparison, that is more than triple California's legal driving limit.
Ortega was shot with a small handgun that was registered to a friend of Fabrizio's, Eubanks said. Fabrizio was not arrested and the case remains under investigation. Fabrizio said Wednesday night that she shot Ortega to protect her children.
Neighbors were still talking about the shooting hours later, recounting how the generally quiet street of tidy houses had turned into a sea of flashing emergency lights.
"At 1:50, I just jumped out of my bed," said Kim Seibel, who lives next door to Fabrizio. "I heard four booms and then I heard a guy moaning."
Seibel had first thought someone was pounding on her front door, then realized she must have heard gun shots. Before long, medics and police were on scene, tending to the man in Fabrizio's front yard.
An ambulance took Ortega to Lodi Memorial Hospital, where he was listed in fair condition Wednesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.
By 9:30 a.m., the yellow police tape had been removed from Fabrizio's front yard, and her Halloween decorations remained. Orange lights lined the eaves of the cream-colored two-story, three-bedroom house.
Seibel said Fabrizio has two young children.
Police had initially been called at 1:43 a.m. to the 300 block of Almond Drive, where a man said someone was trying to break into his home. As officers were on their way, police dispatchers received a call that someone had been shot on Finch Run Drive, which runs parallel to Almond Drive.
There they found Ortega, who remains hospitalized and has not been arrested, Eubanks said.
Ortega had previous contact with police on July 16, when he was arrested after allegedly urinating in the road, then lunging at an elderly man whose daughter had told Ortega to stop. Robert Ross, 81, recounted how Ortega took off his shirt, cussed, then charged across the street and into Ross' Mason Street yard.
"We tripped, stumbled, fell and I landed on top," Ross said Wednesday.
Ross had served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and used his training to hold Ortega, telling him he'd let the young man up if he agreed to stay out of trouble.
Ortega was arrested, and he pleaded guilty Oct. 19 to misdemeanor elder abuse, according to San Joaquin County Superior Court records. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail with seven days of credit and is scheduled to begin serving that sentence Nov. 16.
Ortega was also placed on probation and ordered not to consume any alcohol for a year. No other court cases were listed for him in San Joaquin County.
A friend of his, Jerald Geer, said Ortega was born and raised in Lodi but doesn't have a permanent home. Geer said he hadn't seen Ortega in at least a couple weeks. He wondered if there would be any arrests, but that remains under investigation.
"(Detectives) are going to put everything together and give it to the District Attorney," Eubanks said.
Gun ownership doesn't necessarily matter, he said, because the gun was registered and no permit is required to keep a gun inside a home. Some factors investigators and prosecutors will consider include whether Fabrizio's life was in "immediate danger," Eubanks added.
Neighbors said Fabrizio had moved in two months earlier, but they knew little else about her. They said she had regular company and one said she is a hair stylist and nail technician.
As late as spring 2005, she had worked at the county's Family Resource and Referral Center, which helps single or needy parents with child care. Fabrizio is no longer employed there.
City records show that Fabrizio purchased the home Aug. 18.
Police are still investigating, and neighbors remain shaken. Wilma Bianchi, who lives across the street from Fabrizio, said Almond Drive had recently been the target of gang graffiti — the stop sign at Stockton Street still bears telltale white paint — and an attempted burglary and shooting don't help.
"It makes me feel like maybe we need to move," she said.