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Police press search for second man, woman in Dodger Stadium beating

Officials urge news websites to refrain from publishing a leaked photo of suspect Giovanni Ramirez, out of fear of tainting witnesses in police lineup.

May 24, 2011|By Joel Rubin and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • Esther Picazo, left, embraces Bryan Stow's mother, Ann, on Monday. "We never gave up hope that this day would come, that the beginning of justice being served would happen," Stow's sister said.
Esther Picazo, left, embraces Bryan Stow's mother, Ann, on Monday.… (Lea Suzuki, San Francisco…)

A day after arresting a suspect in the near-fatal beating of a San Francisco Giants fan at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles police detectives pressed ahead Monday with the search for two other suspects, as senior LAPD officials scrambled to mitigate the potential damage done to the investigation by a news leak.

Early Sunday, police took Giovanni Ramirez into custody. Ramirez, 31, a documented gang member, is accused of being one of two men who attacked Bryan Stow on March 31 in the stadium parking lot after the rival teams played. Stow, 42, suffered brain damage in the attack and remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Ramirez is being held on $1-million bail. Prosecutors have not formally charged him.

Still at large is the second assailant and a woman who police said drove the men away from the stadium. Police largely remained silent on the status of the hunt, saying only that detectives were continuing to pursue solid leads on the two individuals.

Detectives were also preparing to conduct lineups later in the week with multiple witnesses to the attack. The lineups, in which witnesses are asked if they recognize anyone in the group as the attacker, are generally considered stronger evidence than when a witness picks a suspect out of a series of photographs.

But those plans hit a snag Monday afternoon when some news media websites published a leaked mug shot of Ramirez from the file kept on him by parole agents. The leak infuriated senior police officials, who worried that the case would be compromised if witnesses saw the image before the lineup.

In an attempt to minimize the chances that witnesses would see the photo, the department rushed to contact news outlets, asking those that had posted the image to remove it and requesting others to refrain from doing so until after the lineups.

Chris Little, news director at KFI-AM (640), said his station took the photo off its website once it learned of the LAPD's concerns. The photo was viewable for several minutes.

KTLA-TV Channel 5 also briefly published the photo. Calls to the TV station for comment were not returned. KTLA is owned by the Tribune Co., which also owns The Times. The Times received the photo but decided not to publish it in light of the ongoing investigation. It does not appear that any other news organization published the image.

Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger and other top LAPD officials hurriedly discussed the possibility of sequestering the witnesses until the lineups to keep them from seeing the photograph. Police officials did not make an immediate decision on how to proceed, but indicated that they expected to go ahead with the lineups despite the leak.

Also Monday, members of Stow's family spoke publicly about Ramirez's arrest.

"We never gave up hope that this day would come, that the beginning of justice being served would happen," Stow's sister Erin Collins said outside San Francisco General Hospital, where her brother remains hospitalized.

With the attack garnering intense national scrutiny, Los Angeles police officials put 20 detectives on the case -- an extraordinary amount of resources. The investigators chased nearly 650 tips that flooded in as $200,000 in reward money was offered.

Ultimately, the break in the case came from Ramirez's parole agent, who alerted police to the possibility that Ramirez resembled descriptions and sketches of one of the attackers, police officials said.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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