No Charges Filed in Brawl Near Ballpark
Prosecutors declined to press charges Tuesday against three men arrested in connection with a violent altercation, in which four people were stabbed, between men police said were unlicensed merchandise vendors and private security guards outside Dodger Stadium last Sunday. At the same time, Los Angeles police detectives were examining whether guards, who were hired by the Dodgers’ merchandising vendors, triggered the clash by handling the outside vendors roughly, said two LAPD sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Two of the vendors, who were being held in lieu of $35,000 bail, were scheduled to be released late Tuesday, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Authorities said a third man continues to be held on outstanding traffic warrants.
Robison declined to say why prosecutors rejected the case.
Four people were stabbed, and three went to the hospital, as a result of the fight Sunday night on a street outside the stadium, near the entrance to the Pasadena Freeway.
There are conflicting accounts about exactly what happened. Mark Farrell, head of corporate security for New York-based SportsService, the Dodgers’ merchandising vendor, said his guards had been working all season to curb illegal merchandise sales in and around the ballpark.
The way Farrell tells it, the incident began after several guards, who work for Black Hawk Security, confiscated allegedly counterfeit T-shirts from unlicensed vendors. (The guards don’t work for the Dodgers’ private security force, which patrols other parts of the stadium property).
When the vendors began to berate them, the guards started to return to their golf cart to leave, Farrell said.
Then a guard was “hit in the eye and knocked to the ground,” he said.
Another guard tried to aid the man, but an unidentified vendor pulled a knife and began swinging, cutting the second guard on the thumb, he said.
The third security guard drove up in the golf cart and was stabbed in the shoulder as he tried to extricate his colleagues, Farrell said.
But one man who said he witnessed the fight and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the security guards appeared to provoke the incident by grabbing the T-shirts and wrestling a vendor to the ground.
“The three guys tried to take the shirts away from a vendor and had him on the ground face-down,” said the man, who added that he was leaving the Dodgers-Cardinals game when he saw the melee.
“The other vendors came to his assistance and that was when the melee started,” he said.
The Sunday clash came as the Dodgers had been beefing up security to deal with several incidents of unruly behavior at the stadium. A review of LAPD statistics shows a modest uptick in some crimes at the stadium complex.
Stadium officials said Monday that an increase in crime reports in the area was due to get-tough policies at the stadium, better crime reporting and additional security -- including uniformed, off-duty LAPD officers -- rather than an actual increase in incidents.
“The Dodgers are not going to tolerate inappropriate behavior in the stadium or on Dodger Stadium property,” said Marty Greenspun, the team’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We are working with the LAPD to enforce our fan code of conduct as well as the laws to ensure that Dodger Stadium is the most fan-friendly stadium in the country.”
LAPD Assistant Chief George Gascon said that earlier this season, officials moved quickly to quell rowdy behavior in the stands and outside the park.
“Very early in the season, there were incidents of rowdiness and we wanted to ensure that did not continue through the rest of the season,” Gascon said. “We put some [extra] patrol officers” at the stadium, “but that was for a short period of time while the Dodgers increased their security.”
But he said that it was too soon to draw any conclusions about the general crime picture in the area before the department completes an in-depth assessment of stadium-area crime in the next several days.
A rash of fights in the stands early in the season -- particularly during a $2 Tuesday promotion -- made headlines and led to beefed-up security. Such behavior seemed part of a slow but steady increase in crimes at the ballpark since 2000, including battery, car theft and vehicle break-ins, the LAPD said.
According to the LAPD, stolen car reports more than doubled -- from eight to 17 -- in the period spanning Opening Day through June 4, 2005, compared with the same period last year.
Reported batteries rose from five to 15, and domestic violence incidents jumped to eight from five, over the same period last year, police said.
Overall, reported crime on park property increased to 92 incidents through June 4, up from 48 last year.
Regulars at the stadium have complained that decorum has deteriorated there. The bad behavior, they say, could be influenced by several factors, including alcohol consumption and heated rivalries, such as the one with the San Francisco Giants.
But other fans have praised the Dodgers for cracking down on the problem with more patrols by both the LAPD and private security guards.