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2 new suspects arrested in beating of US baseball fan in California
LOS ANGELES (AP) ' Two new suspects have been arrested in the beating of a San Francisco Giants fan outside Dodger Stadium and the original suspect may well be exonerated, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
The official, who spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said that if prosecutors file a case against the men, the 31-year-old suspect previously identified by police, Giovanni Ramirez, will be exonerated. District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said detectives have not presented a case to her office yet.
The arrests, which took place Wednesday, are a dramatic development in the case. Since Ramirez was arrested May 22, police have consistently stated they believed they had their man, while his lawyers said detectives were wrong.
One of Ramirez's attorneys, Jose Romero, suggested the defense team unearthed important information to bolster Ramirez's case.
"The police played hide and seek so we did our own digging," Romero said. "This is our golden nugget. He's been innocent from the beginning."
Another attorney, Anthony Brooklier, said police made "a good faith mistake" and gave them credit for continuing with the investigation that led to the latest arrests.
"There was a lot of pressure to solve this case, they made a mistake," Brooklier said.
Giants fan Bryan Stow was nearly beaten to death by two men outside the stadium after attending the March 31 season opener between the Giants and archrival Los Angeles Dodgers. The attack triggered an outpouring of support for Stow, 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 the 42-year-old Stow, a paramedic and father of two, when he lay in a coma at a Los Angeles hospital. He 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.
A call seeking comments from Stow's family was not immediately returned late Thursday.
Ramirez, a convicted felon, is in prison for a parole violation after police found a gun in the house where he was staying when he was arrested. Brooklier said he hasn't been able to reach Ramirez since the news broke.
The case attracted national attention and exposed how the Dodgers, whose owner Frank McCourt was going through financial troubles, had cut back on stadium security. Ramirez was arrested after his parole officer spotted tattoos on his neck that matched witness descriptions 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, Police Chief Charlie Beck hailed the work of 20 detectives who pursued hundreds of leads in the case and called the arrest "a huge step."
Ramirez's lawyers, however, insisted their client was innocent. 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.
Still, Beck repeatedly said he was confident Ramirez was the right suspect.
"Giovanni Ramirez is and was and has been our primary suspect on the Stow beating," he said.
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."
A message left for Beck was not immediately returned.
The arrests were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Associated Press writers Daisy Nguyen and Linda Deutsch contributed to this report.