The LAPD Box Score Reads: Two Runs, Two Hits, One Error

Back in April, I wrote about the beating that took place in the Dodger Stadium parking lot following the Opening Day game between the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. Giant fan Bryan Stow, visiting from Santa Cruz, Calif., was set upon and beaten into a coma by two men who then fled in a car driven by a woman. A child, evidently the next generation of hoodlum, was also in the car.

Given the setting, the case generated a good deal of media attention, attendant to which came intense pressure on the LAPD to find and arrest the suspects. The beating was seen as more than an assault on one man. The Dodgers’ reputation had been damaged, as had indeed that of the entire city of Los Angeles. The notion that thugs could roam the stadium parking lot and beat visiting fans nearly to death without fear of consequence was one the team and local politicians were eager to see quashed.

So it fell to the LAPD to do the quashing, and the sooner the better. Homicide detectives were assigned to the case, an unusual step in a crime that didn’t result in death. If Stow had instead been beaten in a restaurant parking lot on Sunset Boulevard somewhere near the ballpark, no one but the cops who investigated the crime would have heard of it. And, I’m sorry to say, it’s likely that no one would have been arrested for it, either. Indeed, so far this year there have been four murders in the LAPD’s Northeast Division, which includes Dodger Stadium, yet none of these crimes has received even a fraction of the attention given to the Stow case.

And people have been arrested for beating Bryan Stow. Alas, one too many.

In the early morning of May 27, a SWAT team arrested Giovanni Ramirez, 31, at an apartment in East Hollywood. Ramirez came to be a suspect in the beating when his parole officer noticed a resemblance between him and the composite drawing of one of the Dodger Stadium suspects. Witnesses to the crime picked out Ramirez from photo lineups, providing sufficient probable cause for a judge to issue a warrant for Ramirez’s arrest and another authorizing a search of his home and the apartment where he was found.

The afternoon of the arrest, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and officials from the Dodgers held a press conference at Dodger Stadium to voice their relief at having nabbed one of the men responsible for the beating. There was nothing expressed at the press conference to indicate there was anything less than certainty in the police case against Ramirez.

Now we know better. The case soon began to fall apart as detectives were unable to produce any evidence that placed Ramirez anywhere near Dodger Stadium on Opening Day. The investigation was transferred to the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, an elite unit that handles some of the city’s most high-profile crimes. When RHD detectives were likewise unable to find evidence placing Ramirez at Dodger Stadium on the day of the beating, they began working their way through the accumulation of other clues that pointed to other suspects. On July 21, police arrested Louie Sanchez, 29, and Marvin Norwood, 30, and booked them for the assault on Bryan Stow. Police believe it was Sanchez’s sister, Dorene Sanchez, who drove the car that day, and that his 11-year-old son was the child seen in the car.

And now what of Giovanni Ramirez? While the investigation continued, Ramirez went to a parole hearing where it was determined he should go back to prison for ten months for “having access to a firearm.” On the day he was arrested, a handgun was discovered in a laundry basket in the apartment where he was staying. California parolees are forbidden not only from possessing weapons, but also for having access to them.

Chief Beck has announced that Ramirez has been exonerated of any involvement in the Stow beating, going so far as to write an op-ed piece to that effect that ran in the July 30 edition of the Los Angeles Times. But that wasn’t enough for Times columnist Sandy Banks, who thinks Beck owes Ramirez an apology. “Chief Beck and his department have nothing to be ashamed of,” writes Banks. “And neither does Giovanni Ramirez.”

I disagree.