Three men had to be pulled shivering from the Mokelumne River by Lodi police officers after they jumped into the water Thursday night, leaving a stolen vehicle behind.
Two Lodi officers about 9:15 p.m. spotted a vehicle with paper dealer plates that matched a similar vehicle taken recently in Lodi. A pursuit of a few minutes ended on the banks of the river east of town.
Three men left the vehicle and jumped into the frigid river. Bryan Susich, 28, and Nicholas Lang, 22, were immediately pulled from the water, apparently anxious to get out of the river and into a warm police car.
About two hours later, a searching California Highway Patrol helicopter crew using infrared technology observed a faint heat “signature” in the water. The third man, later identified as Samuel Meza, 33, was found clutching a tree in the river.
Too cold to move toward the banks of the river, Meza was pulled from the water by an officer into a Mokelumne Rural Fire Department rescue boat.
Officers later confirmed that the vehicle was stolen. A loaded rifle was found in the vehicle.
Meza was booked on suspicion of felony evading, vehicle theft, felon in possession of a loaded firearm, possession of a controlled substance and resisting arrest.
Susich was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a loaded firearm, possession of a controlled substance and resisting arrest. Lang was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and being a prohibited person in possession of a loaded firearm.