Los Angeles, with its long history of notoriously strained police-neighborhood relations, has been basking in recent weeks in the rare warmth of community cooperation with its officers in blue.
The tragedy is that this feel-good moment for the city is the result of a savage beating meted out two months ago to the fan of an opposing baseball team.
The case shook the entire city as well as Major League Baseball.
The beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day has led to several weeks of citizen tips, the apprehending – on May 22 – of a key suspect, and the sustained investigation of two others, in which the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating more than 700 leads received from the public.
The LAPD is playing its cards very close to its chest so as not to jeopardize ongoing investigations, says Richard French, of LAPD Media Relations. But he confirms Police Chief Charlie Beck’s confidence that Giovanni Ramirez, a parolee and former gang member is among Mr. Stow’s assailants because of positive identifications given by those who witnessed the assault.
Police Chief Beck has taken time out more than once to applaud community cooperation.
“Many of you might think that what you gave us was too small to be of value, but we used everything given to us to finally piece this together,” said Beck, announcing the apprehension of Mr. Ramirez on Sunday.
Twenty detectives worked citizen leads
Beck said 20 detectives assigned to the case spent well over 6,000 hours – 1,000 in expensive overtime – working on leads given by residents. A $250,000 reward is still in place as the LAPD maintains that the case is by no means over.
The number of detective hours spent on the case, and Beck’s handling of the issue publically, has gone a long way to reassure an entire city deeply shaken by the incident.
Dodger officials also announced the hiring of William Bratton – the former LAPD chief and now a private security consultant – to analyze and increase stadium security. Many residents came forward to explain that they had had enough of a gang-dominated subset of Dodger fans who are violent.
Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks wrote that her own daughter once called her from the stands in fear.
“It’s a perception thing, safety and a quality of life issue really. Just a huge weight has lifted off,” says Melissa Travers at a coffee shop here. “I don’t know if this is their man or not, but just the way the police have handled this has reassured me,”says the retail clerk.
“This is a moment for the LAPD to really celebrate,” says Mary Powers, president of the National Coalition for Police Accountability. She notes that the LAPD’s reputation has suffered deeply over the past two decades from incidents ranging from the Rodney King beating, to the O.J. Simpson murder trial, to a scandal involving hundreds of officers accused of planting evidence.
Good news for a police force with a troubled past
“When you’ve had a history like this department has, you welcome good news like the work they’ve done on this case,” she says. “They deserve a lot of praise for this.”
Ramirez was taken into custody without incident and arrested on suspicion that he was one of two men who attacked Stow from behind, in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium on March 31 following the season opener between the rival teams. Stow, 42, suffered brain damage in the attack and remains hospitalized. Of the two people being sought, one is thought to be the driver of the assailants’ vehicle.
Ramirez was booked on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon and is being held on $1 million bail. Because he is accused of kicking Stow while he was unconscious on the ground, police consider Ramirez's foot a deadly weapon.
Ramirez attorney, Anthony Brooklier, told a local radio station that the witnesses who identified Ramirez are wrong because his client was not at the game. He says members of Ramirez’ family will testify to this in court.
Local observers say the incident at first damaged public confidence but now has turned that around.
“Fans are not turning out in many stadiums, but particularly Dodger Stadium; the attack is not the only reason for the drop in attendance, but it has contributed to fewer fans. It is also a very important case for the LAPD, since it was such a high profile event. The case had dragged on for weeks without any arrests and people and fans were concerned that the attackers would never be found.”