On May 22 a SWAT team arrested a 31-year-old ex-convict named Giovanni Ramirez in East Hollywood after his parole agent noticed he had covered tattoos on his neck with a new one. Witnesses picked Ramirez out of a lineup. In a press conference at Dodger Stadium, Beck fought back tears as he made the announcement. But Ramirez had never even been to a Dodgers game, according to his lawyer, Anthony Brooklier. The suspect passed two polygraph tests and had 11 alibi witnesses. The district attorney declined to file charges. Stow's picture remained on the front of the LAPD website.
The case was reassigned to the Robbery Homicide Division, which has more experience handling complex investigations. In all, 110 detectives were employed across every division, logging more than 10,000 hours. The total reward offered by the city and the Dodgers (who in May increased their share to $125,000) rose to $250,000. Politicians could not remember a higher reward in L.A. history. Police could not remember more attention on a case since O.J. Simpson was arrested for murder. As detectives sifted through thousands of tips, they heard complaints about two male fans sitting in section 149 on Opening Day with a woman and a child. Detectives contacted the Dodgers for ticket records, and the team provided all available names, phone numbers and addresses for fans sitting in the section.
On July 21, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood were arrested on the same street in Rialto, one hour east of Los Angeles. Police found five guns at Norwood's home, including an AR-15 assault rifle. Beck wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times exonerating Ramirez and explaining how mistakes were made in the police investigation. In an arraignment at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown L.A., with news trucks circling the block, Sanchez and Norwood pleaded not guilty to charges of felony assault, battery and mayhem.
At the arraignment Deputy District Attorney Frank Santoro acknowledged that no witnesses picked Norwood out of a lineup and only one picked Sanchez. But Santoro said he had admissions from both suspects, Norwood in a formal interview and Sanchez in a surreptitious recording taken in custody. Dorene Sanchez, who was arrested but not charged, spoke with a grand jury, and according to LAPD sources she implicated the men. Gilbert Quinones, Sanchez's lawyer, said he needed more information to say whether his client was truly innocent. The DA promised him 25 binders of discovery.
LAC-USC Medical Center's emergency department routinely renders the names of violent-crime victims anonymous in their medical records. But according to documents from the hospital, a nonresponsive 42-year-old man who'd been assaulted in an altercation at Dodger Stadium on March 31, 2011, was admitted with a .176 blood alcohol content, more than twice the legal limit in California. Quinones said he heard during his investigation that Stow might have been beaten in a fight, not in an unprovoked attack, which would be consistent with most episodes of fan violence. Rarely is a fan beaten simply for wearing an opposing team's jersey, especially at a venue like Dodger Stadium, where opposing jerseys are common. "I've been defending these cases for 23 years and have yet to see one in which at least two parties weren't involved," says Jerry Jackson, the Dodgers' lawyer. "It still takes two to tango."
Sanchez's criminal history dates back to when he was 16 and includes nine arrests, among them a DUI in which he led police on a high-speed chase. Norwood has reportedly been arrested five times. Stow has a much shorter rap sheet. According to Santa Cruz County court records, he was arrested three times between October 1989 and July 1990, once for domestic violence and twice for DUI. On the second DUI, police found marijuana and cocaine in his car. But that was more than 20 years ago. Stow got married, had kids and landed a respectable job. "Look, he wasn't an angel that day," says an LAPD officer. "But he definitely didn't deserve what he got."
Stow stayed at LAC-USC for seven weeks. His seizures subsided. He opened his eyes slightly and moved his hands occasionally. He received more than 20 letters a day from supporters. "You could feel the entire community of L.A. behind us," says Zada, the neurosurgeon. "People were so invested in him." Stow's family started a website, support4bryanstow.com, to blog about his progress. They sold T-shirts and hats with the slogan, for stow. Barry Bonds visited the hospital and later offered to pay all college expenses for Stow's two children, 12-year-old Tyler and nine-year-old Tabitha. When Stow was flown to San Francisco General Hospital in mid-May, nurses at USC hugged the family and wept. Ann said at a news conference, "This truly is the city of angels."
A week later, the Stows sued McCourt and the Dodgers. The family's lawyer, Thomas Girardi, filed a 31-page complaint alleging negligence, premises liability, negligent hiring and much more. Girardi, who hired former police detectives and CIA investigators to assist with research, alleges that McCourt had in recent years cut two thirds of the Dodgers' security force even though the club sells more beer than any other team in the major leagues. (The Dodgers say they do not know where they rank in beer sales and deny making such deep cuts in their security staff.) "This is a case you couldn't win if O'Malley owned the team," Girardi says. "And it's a case you can't lose with Frank McCourt in charge."
In fact, the Dodgers were sued in a similar situation during the O'Malley days. In 1985 a fan was assaulted in the stadium parking lot and claimed that the team's security was negligent. The court ruled with the Dodgers because they had 69 security employees on hand, one for every 900 fans. On Opening Day this season, they had one security employee on hand for every 122 fans. "If you act responsibly and avoid those who don't," says Jackson, the club's lawyer, "then you will have no problems here."
The Dodgers are playing the Padres on a cloudless Saturday afternoon and 18 cars are parked in Lot 2. There are four mobile light stands. An LAPD officer whizzes by on a motorcycle, then one in a car, then another on a motorcycle. The stands are half empty at best. Protestors have organized a one-day boycott. A group of Padres fans slide into a row behind home plate. Two Dodgers fans thank them for coming. Tommy Lasorda appears on the scoreboard and reminds everyone to watch their language. Several innings later, he does it again. An usher approaches a father and son to ask if they'd like to move under an overhang, so they can be shaded from the sun. Cops stroll through the concourse. Everyone seems to walk on tiptoes.