2 Held in Shooting in Dodger Stadium Lot
Police detained two suspects and were searching for another Saturday in the shooting death of a 25-year-old San Francisco Giant fan in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium, an incident that authorities said had been triggered by a decades-old baseball rivalry.
Two families leaving the game during the eighth inning of the game won by the Giants Friday night apparently traded words about the teams, police said. The dispute culminated when Mark Allen Antenorcruz, of Covina, was shot twice after a man he was arguing with pulled a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun from his family’s white SUV, police said.
Antenorcruz was taken to nearby Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he died 36 minutes after the 10 p.m. shooting, according to Los Angeles County Coroner’s officials.
Police would not identify any of the suspects or say who they believe fired the shots. A man and his sister were being held Saturday. A third family member was questioned and released. A fourth member of the family, a 17-year-old South Gate man, was still being sought.
Authorities offered few details about what had led to the attack. The victim’s family holds Dodger season tickets. Antenorcruz attended school in Northern California and was a Giant fan.
Members of the victim’s family, including his stepfather, James Vega, said the shooting had been “definitively unprovoked.” He said that his two sons had both been cheering, one for the Dodgers and the other for the Giants, as they walked to their car when Antenorcruz was suddenly shot. Antenorcruz wasn’t wearing any Giant apparel because he “didn’t want any trouble,” Vega said.
While there have been many serious incidents of fan-on-fan attacks at sporting events in the United States over the years, this appears to be one of the few times that team loyalty may have led to the shooting death of a fan at either a pro baseball or a pro football game, according to baseball officials and a National Football League spokesman.
There has been no love lost between the Giants and Dodgers since the early 1900s, when the teams were cross-town rivals in New York City. Both clubs moved to California after the 1957 season and immediately renewed their hostilities on opening day in San Francisco in 1958.
Today, the rivalry usually manifests itself in good-natured ribbing and sometimes a few brawls in the stands. Team officials with the Dodgers said they could not recall a similar incident. Nevertheless, they beefed up security for Saturday night’s game, which was attended by 54,488. Friday night’s game drew 51,612 fans.
Dodger President Bob Graziano issued a statement on the shooting: “We are deeply saddened by last night’s incident. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim and his family. The safety of our fans has always been, and will always be, our No. 1 priority here.”
Derrick Hall, a Dodger senior vice president, said that the shooting had been an isolated incident and that the team remained confident that the stadium is a safe place to visit. “We’ve been criticized for being too harsh with security,” Hall said. “This is why ... we watch every inch of the stadium.”
Police ruled out gang activity as a motive for the attack, but said that alcohol had probably been a contributing factor. “It’s clear that the argument was related to the game,” said Deputy Chief Gary Brennan of the Los Angeles Police Department.
After the attack, Antenorcruz’s stepbrother ran after the vehicle carrying the suspected shooter, desperately trying to get the license-plate number, said Vega, the stepfather.
But the car quickly outraced him. The stepbrother, Vega said, pounded on the window of a passing car and told the occupants, “ ‘They just shot my brother. Can you follow them and get their license?’ ”
That car then followed the white SUV for one mile as it raced off stadium grounds, according to police. A passenger jotted down the plate number, returned to the stadium and gave it to police.
Police traced the white SUV to a home in an unincorporated area near Whittier. Early Saturday morning, police took three people into custody who had been in the SUV at the game.
Antenorcruz was at the Dodger game with his sister, brother and a friend, Vega said. Antenorcruz had become a Giant fan while living in the Bay Area and attending a community college near Berkeley, Vega said during an interview Saturday at the family’s hillside home in Covina.
He said that Antenorcruz, who lived at the family home, had been studying graphic arts at Mt. San Antonio College and had been working as a bookkeeper. He had hoped to attend graduate school at UC Berkeley. As a child, he had done some modeling in catalogs and had a brief role as a lost boy in the 1991 film “Hook.”
In the seconds after he was shot, Antenorcruz’s sister Brandy held him in her arms while screaming for help, Vega said. She attempted to dial 911 on her cell phone but got a busy signal, he said.
Vega spoke in a breezeway that Antenorcruz had set up as a weight-training center -- with barbells, a bench press and other exercise equipment.
“This is who Mark was,” said his aunt, Gayle Brumley, pointing to the equipment. “He worked, he went to school and he would work out.”
They described him as having had a terrific sense of humor -- the type of young man who could light up a room with laughter and a good uncle to his nieces and nephews.
He loved animals and enjoyed playing acoustic guitar. For his birthday last June, Vega took him to the Guitar Center to pick out a new guitar as a surprise present.
He said relatives were particularly outraged that the killing had happened during such a family-oriented event.
“I would say to all families, you can’t think anywhere is safe anymore for your kids. You can’t even go to a ballgame,” Vega said.
Antenorcruz’s siblings remained in seclusion inside the home. Vega called the strangers in the chase vehicle heroes.
“We would love to thank them so much for getting involved and pursuing a person who they knew had a gun,” Vega said.
Dodger Stadium is surrounded by a parking lot that can accommodate 16,000 cars. Hall said the lot is surveyed by officers both on the ground and in towers and that multiple security cameras scan the lot.
Kevin Hallinan, baseball’s security director, was reached in New York and said that baseball had stepped up its security procedures since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with bag checks at each stadium entrance and wands used at those entrances.
While the shooting occurred in the stadium parking lot, Hallinan acknowledged that “these are entertainment centers, and if a person was determined to bring a weapon into the ballpark, they could possibly do it.”
Hallinan, who has spent his career in police, security and anti-terrorism work, also said that the Dodgers conduct “one of the best security operations in the major leagues.”
He said that he had been called soon after the incident Friday night and that he had spent most of Saturday in “brainstorming conversations with my staff, police and Dodger security personnel, as we always do after any security-related incident, to make sure that what we’re doing is state of the art.”
Dodger infielder Ron Coomer, who has participated in several of baseball’s most heated rivalries as a member of the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, said it’s unfathomable to think that someone’s baseball allegiance could lead to the shooting of an opposing fan.
Who, he asked, “would think of bringing a gun to a game?”
“You’ve got to be an idiot to do that to begin with,” Coomer said. “What are you coming here for? What’s your purpose to have someone lose their life over a rivalry or some stupid baseball game?”
Dodger right fielder Shawn Green said: “It’s tragic and it’s embarrassing that it happened here at our stadium. It’s just a game, when it comes down to it. It’s bad enough when people fight over it, but when it turns into someone pulling out a weapon and someone actually using it, it’s mind-boggling.”
Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said he had never thought he would have to address the media over the death of a fan.
“I don’t really know how to correlate that into words,” he said. “It’s somewhat beyond my comprehension.”
At Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, where the Dodgers played the Giants again, Friday’s shooting seemed to have little effect on fans
“It doesn’t affect me. I don’t get into any arguments with fans,” said Chuck Holt, 50, a Los Angeles resident and a Dodger fan for 38 years. “Hopefully, I can walk around without getting hit by a stray bullet anywhere in Los Angeles.”
A few Giant fans, however, decided to leave their team’s logo gear at home -- just in case.
“I was a little wary of coming here tonight. I dressed incognito,” said Lisa Dalporto, 33, of San Mateo. “This is the first time I’ve gone to a road game when I didn’t wear a Giant jersey and hat.”
Bryce Swetek, 13, of Ojai said his mother told him, “You be careful. Someone got shot out there.”
“I wouldn’t have driven 400 miles if I was concerned,” said Giant fan John Quinn, 45, of San Bruno.
But another Giant fan, Shellie Nichols, 42, of Tulare said she felt safe only because she was with a large group of friends who were Dodger fans. Last year, she said, Dodger fans pelted their Giant counterparts with popcorn, ice and beer.
“It was bad.... It was very uncomfortable.”
Times staff writers Ben Bolch, Sam Farmer, Andrew Blankstein, Wendy Thermos, Hector Becerra and Jean Merl contributed to this report.