Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, center, at a May news conference… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles police Thursday arrested two men in connection with the brutal beating of a San Francisco Giants fan at Dodger Stadium and have concluded that the suspect they took into custody in May was not involved in the attack, law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said.
Police officials refused to publicly release details about the dramatic turn of events in the case, which has attracted international attention and placed city and Dodger officials under intense pressure to reassure fans it is safe to attend games at the storied venue in Chavez Ravine.
The conclusion that Giovanni Ramirez, 31, is not responsible for the March 31 assault in the stadium parking lot on Bryan Stow, 42, a Santa Clara County paramedic, raises serious questions about the Los Angeles Police Department's investigation and why Police Chief Charlie Beck has repeatedly expressed confidence that Ramirez was the primary culprit.
"Obviously, we're going to need to get an explanation," said Matt Szabo, a senior aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The mayor and Beck trumpeted the capture of Ramirez at a news conference on the day he was taken into custody.
The LAPD's case against Ramirez stalled from the start. Police took him into custody during an early morning raid May 22 after a parole agent raised suspicion that Ramirez might be one of the assailants, and then multiple witnesses identified him from photo lineups.
But after scouring mobile phone records, thousands of images from surveillance camera footage, financial records and hundreds of other possible links and tips, detectives were unable to link Ramirez to the beating.
Without sufficient evidence, prosecutors balked at filing criminal charges against Ramirez, a documented gang member. Instead, he was held on suspicion of violating the terms of his parole from a previous conviction. In June, he was returned to prison for 10 months when a parole commissioner confirmed that Ramirez had had access to a gun — a violation of his parole.
Last month, with the case apparently not progressing, Beck reassigned the investigation to detectives in the department's elite Robbery-Homicide Division. It was not immediately known what information led that team of detectives to the new suspects.
Officials steadily increased the amount of reward money being offered to more than $200,000, hoping it would eventually be enough to persuade someone with information about the attack to come forward.
LAPD officials Thursday maintained an unusual level of silence about the arrests, ignoring calls for comment from The Times.
Several command-level officers in the department, as well as members of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, and members of the mayor's staff said they had not been informed about the arrests.
Reached Thursday, Ramirez's attorney said he was unaware of the arrests.
"I haven't heard anything," Anthony Brooklier said. "But if it's true, I'm happy for my client. I always believed he was factually innocent. There was a lot of pressure on LAPD. I believe that they were operating in good faith and made a good-faith mistake."
Brooklier repeatedly went before television cameras to assert Ramirez's innocence, had his client take a polygraph exam and made headlines with his claim that nearly a dozen people could place Ramirez at his home at the time of the attack. He announced as well that Ramirez had hair on his head when the beating occurred and so he could not have been the bald assailant described by witnesses.
Stow, a father of two, was walking through the Dodger Stadium parking lot with two friends after the Dodgers' opening-day victory over the Giants when he was attacked.
Stow, who lives in Santa Cruz, was wearing Giants apparel, police said, when two men began taunting him. One of the assailants blindsided Stow with blows to the back and head, police said.
The two assailants repeatedly kicked and punched Stow while he was on the ground. After appearing to make progress in recent weeks, Stow's condition took a turn for the worse this week when he suffered seizures and underwent emergency surgery.
Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.