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L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa defends LAPD handling of Bryan Stow case

Mayor Antonio Villariagosa has defended the way the Los Angeles Police Department handled the case of Bryan Stow, the Dodger Stadium beating victim.

Law-enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times that police have arrested two men in connection with the Dodger Stadium beating and concluded that the suspect they took into custody in May, Giovanni Ramirez,  was not involved in the attack.

Villariagosa, speaking to television reporters late Thursday, said the Stow case was highly difficult to prove and that detectives were doing the best with the information they had.

"What we did is, we followed hundreds of thosands of leads in a case that was difficult" because police were working with only a general description of the suspects, the mayor said.

He added that there was "not nearly enough in the way of eyewitnesses" who could help identify the attacker.

Ramirez's attorney, Anthony Brooklier, said he was pleased with the results. "There was a lot of pressure on LAPD. I believe that they were operating in good faith and made a good-faith mistake."

Chip Matthews, who has represented Ramirez's daughter, said Thursday night that the family was “ecstatic that the world now knows what they have known all along, that Giovanni Ramirez was not the man that committed this heinous crime.”

“They hope that this brings some solace and closure to Bryan Stow’s family,” he added.

Ramirez's daughter had insisted he was home with her at the time of the beating.

The conclusion that  Ramirez, 31, is not responsible for the March 31 assault in the stadium parking lot on 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.

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 the suspicion that Ramirez might have been 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.

Villaraigosa stressed that the LAPD was just doing its job. Officials "didn't convict. Only a jury can do that," he said in video on CBS 2 News.

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-- Jack Leonard, Joel Rubin, Andrew Blankstein, Richard Winton

 
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