Family of Giovanni Ramirez slams LAPD's handling of Bryan Stow case
The family of Giovanni Ramirez, the initial suspect in the brutal beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow who police now believe was not involved in the attack, expressed anger and frustration Friday over the way Los Angeles police handled the case.
Soledad Gonzalez, Ramirez’s mother, said police never should have publicly released her son’s photo until the case had been fully investigated.
"I got very upset because they did something wrong," said Gonzalez, who was speaking at the downtown Los Angeles office of her family’s attorney, Jose Romero. "If they didn’t have any proof, why did they put a picture of him in public and say he’s the suspect?"
On Thursday, police arrested two other suspects in connection with the March 31 assault of Stow in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after the season opener between the Dodgers and the Giants. Stow, a Santa Clara County paramedic, suffered serious brain damage and remains hospitalized.
Gonzalez said the episode has been very difficult for the family. She said she had not seen or spoken to her son since his arrest in May.
Ramirez remains in custody on a parole violation.
"We do have a system of justice in place by which suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty," Romero said. "Unfortunately, we have just the opposite here."
Romero said that during a police lineup, only one of seven witnesses identified Ramirez as the assailant in the case. He said two other witnesses identified someone else and the other four failed to identify anyone in the lineup.
Police had earlier released an artist's rendering of the suspect showing that he had tattoos on his neck and a teardrop tattoo under his left eye.
As a result, Ramirez's attorneys asked that the suspects in the lineup all have their necks covered with towels and that a teardrop be drawn under each of their left eyes so that witnesses would not be prejudiced.
Ramirez's uncle, Eleno Gaitan, who was also at the news conference, said Ramirez was at Gaitan's house at a family picnic the day Stow was beaten. Defense investigator Ray Lara said the alibi was confirmed by numerous witnesses. The next door neighbors, for instance, remembered people coming over to look for Ramirez's girlfriend's cell phone after he pretended to throw it into their yard when the couple had a fight.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck trumpeted the capture of Ramirez at a news conference on the day he was taken into custody.
The Los Angeles Police Department'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 suspicion that Ramirez might be 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 parole violation.
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 eventually would be enough to persuade someone with information about the attack to come forward.
-- Abby Sewell
Photo: Giovanni Ramirez
Credit: Associated Press