By Thomas Watkins
LOS ANGELES — For weeks, police expressed confidence they arrested the right man in the beating of a San Francisco Giants fan outside Dodger Stadium. But a law enforcement official has now told The Associated Press that two new suspects have been arrested.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said Thursday that if prosecutors file a case against the men, whose names were not released, 31-year-old Giovanni Ramirez will be exonerated.
District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said detectives have not presented a case to her office yet.
The arrests took place Wednesday and marked a dramatic development in a case that drew widespread attention to both the beating and to how the Dodgers, whose owner Frank McCourt was going through financial troubles, had cut back on stadium security.
Bryan Stow, 42, was nearly beaten to death by two men after attending the March 31 season opener between the Giants and Dodgers.
The attack triggered an outpouring of support for him, including a total of $225,000 in reward money collected from fundraisers and offered by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Dodgers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects.
Vigils were held for Stow, a paramedic and father of two, when he lay in a coma for weeks at a Los Angeles hospital.
The highly publicized arrest May 22 of Ramirez was hailed by Police Chief Charlie Beck as a "significant break that will lead to a successful prosecution." But Ramirez's lawyers argued that police were wrong.
Ramirez was arrested after his parole officer spotted tattoos on his neck that matched witness descriptions of one of Stow's attackers.
Detectives at the Los Angeles Police Department's northeast division handled the initial probe that led to Ramirez's arrest. At a news conference announcing his arrest, Beck praised the work of 20 detectives who pursued hundreds of leads in the case.
"Giovanni Ramirez is and was and has been our primary suspect on the Stow beating," he said.
Ramirez's lawyers, however, insisted their client was innocent. They said they found surveillance video at a Denny's restaurant showing he had hair the day witnesses described seeing two men with shaved heads beating Stow. Ramirez submitted to two lie detector tests, provided nearly a dozen alibis and cellphone records to show where he was when he made calls around the time of the attack.
"I'm thrilled for my client and I'm really happy for his mother and father," defense attorney Anthony Brooklier said. "It really smelled bad right from the beginning. "
After prosecutors declined to file a case against Ramirez, detectives at the LAPD's prestigious robbery-homicide division took the investigation over and started again from scratch.
Robbery homicide detectives re-interviewed all of the witnesses in the case, which initially was based purely on eyewitness statements that were not corroborated with forensic evidence.
A prominent defense lawyer said Ramirez could have a case against the police department for false arrest. At the least, he is owed an apology, attorney Mark Geragos said.
"I don't understand why the cops said they got their guy, they were so confident," Geragos said. "It's outrageous. They should have stopped shooting their mouths off and concentrated on the investigation."
Brooklier said he wasn't interested in suing.
"Under the law, the police are allowed to make mistakes," he said. "What they are not allowed to do is make up evidence or ignore exonerating evidence. I'm going to go with this being a good faith mistake."
A call to Beck Thursday was not immediately returned.
Stow was transported to a San Francisco hospital in May after doctors determined he was stable enough to be moved and be closer to his family in Northern California
His cousin John Stow told KION-TV in Salinas that the family was putting its faith in the Police Department as the investigation continues.
"We know that they have a big job to do and they have a lot of work ahead of them," he said. "I know that no matter what happens on that side, it's never going to really help Bryan. Will it possibly help someone else down the line? Absolutely."
The arrests were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press