MERCED — Three men were arrested by Merced police early Friday on suspicion of assaulting a man in the 400 block of West Main Street in the downtown area.
Michael Shafer, 26, Christopher Thissen, 38, and Richard Wendling, 26, were taken into custody by officers, according to Lt. Tom Trindad.
Officer William Heuer was on patrol about 1 a.m. in the downtown area when he saw the victim having trouble keeping his balance, with a group of people standing around him.
The officer stopped and learned the victim had been assaulted and the alleged attackers had walked away. Officer Heuer notified other officers about the direction the alleged suspects were traveling, and officer Lean Pintabona detained the three suspects, according to Trindad.
A witness was able to identify the suspects as the people who attacked the victim.
Police say the crime may be gang-related. Police learned during their investigation that one of the suspects allegedly punched the victim and asked whether he belonged to a gang.
Police said the suspects yelled out during the assault, claiming they belonged to the Hells Angels. Police said two of the suspects were wearing items associated with the Hells Angels, such as T-shirts, belts and rings.
The victim was taken to the hospital and treated.
The suspects were booked at the Merced County Jail on suspicion of battery involving serious injury and participation in a criminal street gang.
Police ask anyone with any information about the incident to call Sgt. Scott Skinner at (209) 385-4702, or the department's automated tipline at (209) 385-4725. Tips can also be sent via anonymous text message by dialing "TIP411" (847411) and including the word "ComVIP" as the keyword in the text message.