Two men suspected of beating San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow into a coma on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium have been arrested by Los Angeles police, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the LAPD no longer considers Giovanni Ramirez, who was initially tagged as the prime suspect, as responsible for the attack.
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 two men, Ramirez would be exonerated. District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said detectives have not presented a case to her office yet.
The arrests, which took place Wednesday, are a dramatic development in the case. Since Ramirez was arrested May 22, police have consistently restated they believed they had their man, while his lawyers said detectives were wrong.
The LAPD officer in charge of media relations would neither confirm nor deny the arrests.
"The Stow investigation continues," LAPD spokesman Andrew Neiman told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne. "We're making good progress. As information becomes available we'll make that public."
He said that Ramirez, a convicted felon, remains in custody on an unrelated parole violation after police found a gun in the house where he was staying when he was arrested. Ramirez's lawyers contend that he was not at Dodger Stadium at the time of the attack.
One of Ramirez's attorneys, Jose Romero, suggested the defense 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 Ramirez attorney, Anthony Brooklier, said the arrest was a mistake made in "good faith."
"The police have to be free to make mistakes, they just have to be good-faith mistakes," Brooklier told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "This is not a situation where the police manufactured evidence. They thought they had the right guy, they were wrong. That's why we have courts and law and thank god, defense attorneys. Every once in a while, we help.
"I'm going to focus on the positive that LAPD continued to investigate the case and I think they get credit for that."
Brooklier also said that as of late Thursday night, he had yet to receive any new information about his client's status in the investigation from LAPD. He said that he will immediately seek to have Ramirez released from custody, adding that he does not believe Ramirez will pursue a civil case against the LAPD.
Brooklier and Romero are scheduled to appear at a Friday afternoon news conference in downtown Los Angeles.
Police say Stow, 42, of Santa Cruz, was attacked by two men outside Dodger Stadium after attending the March 31 season opener between the Giants and archrival Los Angeles Dodgers. The attack triggered an outpouring of support for Stow, including a total of $225,000 in reward money collected from fundraisers and offered by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Dodgers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects.
Vigils were held for Stow, a paramedic and father of two, when he lay in a coma at a Los Angeles hospital. He was transported to a San Francisco hospital in May after doctors determined he was stable enough to be moved and be closer to his family in Northern California.
Stow suffered brain damage in the near-fatal assault and has been in a coma ever since. He experienced a setback in his recovery earlier this week when he underwent emergency brain surgery Monday after suffering a 30-second seizure. A hospital spokesman said Wednesday that Stow remains in serious condition.
A call seeking comments from Stow's family was not immediately returned late Thursday.
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. At a news conference announcing his arrest, Police Chief Charlie Beck hailed the work of 20 detectives who pursued hundreds of leads in the case and called the arrest "a huge step."
Ramirez's lawyers, however, insisted their client was innocent, contending that he had hair the day witnesses described seeing two men with shaved heads beating Stow. Ramirez submitted to two lie detector tests, provided nearly a dozen alibis and cellphone records to show where he was when he made calls around the time of the attack.
Still, Beck repeatedly said he was confident Ramirez was the right suspect.
"Giovanni Ramirez is and was and has been our primary suspect on the Stow beating," he said.
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.
A prominent defense lawyer said Ramirez could have a case against the police department for false arrest. At the least, he is owed an apology, attorney 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.
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addressed the matter Thursday night, but stopped short of confirming that Ramirez would be exonerated.
"I can't confirm that, but I can tell you that I do know that you all have been informed that two people have been arrested," Villaraigosa told reporters outside a park in East L.A.
"We said to you that we were going to do everything we could to find the individuals who beat Bryan Stow. We followed hundreds and thousands of leads in a case that was very difficult for us. There were general descriptions of the assailants but not nearly enough in the way of eyewitnesses that could connect that person to the incident."
The Los Angeles Times was first to report the arrest of the two new suspects.
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press was used in this report.