Two new suspects were arrested Wednesday in the beating of a San Francisco Giants fan outside Dodger Stadium and the original suspect may well be exonerated, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said that if the district attorney's office files a case against the men, the suspect previously identified by police, Giovanni Ramirez, will be exonerated.
The arrests are a dramatic development in the case. Since Giovanni was arrested May 22, police have consistently restated they believed they had their man, while his lawyers said detectives were wrong.
One of Ramirez's lawyers, Jose Romero, suggested the defence team unearthed important evidence in the case.
"The police played hide and seek so we did our own digging," Romero said. "This is our golden nugget. He's been innocent from the beginning."
Another lawyer, Tony Brooklier, told KNX-AM that the arrest was a "good faith mistake, that's all."
Giants fan Bryan Stow was almost fatally beaten by two men outside the stadium after attending the March 31 season opener between the Giants and archrival Los Angeles Dodgers.
A paramedic and father of two, the 42-year-old Stow was transported from Los Angeles to San Francisco in May after being in a coma and in critical condition for months before doctors upgraded his condition to serious in June.
But Stow's family said in a statement that he needed emergency surgery on Monday after a buildup of fluid in his brain led to a seizure.
Ramirez, a convicted felon, is in prison for a parole violation after police found a gun in the house where he was staying when he was arrested.
The case attracted broad national attention and exposed how the Dodgers had cut back on stadium security. Ramirez was arrested after his parole officer spotted tattoos on his neck that matched witness descriptions of Stow's attackers.
Detectives at the Los Angeles Police Department's northeast division handled the initial probe that led to Ramirez's arrest.
After prosecutors declined to file a case against Ramirez, detectives at the LAPD's prestigious robbery-homicide division took the investigation over and started again from scratch.
Robbery homicide detectives re-interviewed all of the witnesses in the case, which initially was based purely on eyewitness statements that were not corroborated with forensic evidence.
Even though prosecutors never filed a case against Ramirez, Police Chief Charlie Beck repeatedly said he was confident Ramirez was the right suspect and that he had been the main aggressor in the attack.
A prominent defence lawyer said Ramirez could have a case against the police department for false arrest. At the least, he is owed an apology, lawyer Mark Geragos said.
"I don't understand why the cops said they got their guy, they were so confident," Geragos said. "It's outrageous. They should have stopped shooting their mouths off and concentrated on the investigation."
A message left for Beck was not immediately returned.
The arrests were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.