The punch came hard and fast. The sound was nauseating.
“It was a crack, a sickening crack — fist hitting bone. That’s the only way that I can describe it,” Corey Maciel said Tuesday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
His friend Bryan Stow was felled in an instant.
“I heard his head hit the asphalt — another sickening crack,” Maciel said.
Testifying in the civil trial that accuses the Los Angeles Dodgers and former owner Frank McCourt of providing ineffective lighting and security the night of Stow’s attack, Maciel was emotional as he spoke of the events of March 31, 2011.
He and Stow had driven along with Alan “Jeff” Bradford and Matthew Lee from the Bay Area for opening day. All but Lee were paramedics, a profession they would rely on hours later.
After a stop at Maciel’s brother’s barbershop, the group bought beer and drank at their motel. They took a taxi to Dodger Stadium, where their San Francisco Giants gear attracted jeers and taunts. Hot dogs and peanuts were thrown at them. At one point, Maciel said, he was intoxicated. Bradford testified last week that Stow was also inebriated.
Afterward, the reception by Dodgers fans in the parking lot was mixed, Maciel said. Some offered handshakes and calls of “good game.” Others shouted profanities.
When two women sneered at them in the parking lot, Maciel said, Stow was fed up and said in a loud voice, “I hope they code” — referring to cardiac arrest.
Maciel testified that a man, later identified as Louie Sanchez, then approached and shoved Stow, demanding to know what had just been said. Maciel said he and Stow quickly walked away.
“We figured it was an isolated incident, there wasn’t going to be anything further, and we kind of relaxed.”
Moments later, Maciel said he saw Sanchez strike Bradford in the face and move on to punch and kick Stow in the head. Sanchez’s friend Marvin Norwood kicked Stow in the torso, Maciel said.
“Did you see any movement from Mr. Stow?” David Lira, one of Stow’s attorneys, asked.
“Only his head reacting to the kick,” said Maciel as he grew visibly pained on the stand.
The 29-year-old said he ran toward Stow.
“I threw myself on top of him, over his head, to shield him,” he said. “They were still standing there.... I said, ‘He’s unconscious! What else do you want? Leave him alone!’”
Sanchez and Norwood pleaded guilty to the attack this year.
Attorneys played for jurors a 911 call from that evening in which Maciel can be heard relying on his paramedic training to help his friend. A witness made the call but handed the phone to Maciel.
“He’s got snoring respirations at the moment, bleeding out of his left ear, no response to painful stimuli — we need an ambulance right now,” Maciel says about Stow in the recording.
Maciel tells the operator he won’t start CPR because Stow was not in cardiac arrest.
“His respiratory rate is decreasing.... He was struck by a fist in the head, he hit the ground, also hit his head on the ground. He’s still unconscious.”
At one point Maciel says Stow is “close to Kussmauls,” referring to abnormally slow breathing. He then says Stow’s cervical spine has been manually immobilized.
“Jesus Christ. Where’s the nearest trauma center?” Maciel asks.
Several times, Maciel says simply, “He’s not good.”
Jurors wiped their eyes as the recording played.
Authorities’ response time has been debated throughout the trial. Witnesses have estimated that it took about 15 minutes for security to show up after Stow was hit at 8:20 p.m. In previous testimony it was revealed that the two guards assigned to Parking Lot 2 were in a different area when they learned of Stow’s assault. One guard later wrote in a memo to his supervisor that they arrived at 8:30 p.m.
The 911 call was placed about 8:25 p.m. and continued for more than eight minutes. It ends when a woman tells the operator that the Fire Department had arrived.
In an earlier deposition, Maciel said it took about five minutes for the ambulance to appear. But on Tuesday, he said he couldn’t recall exactly how much time had passed. “It’s hard to say,” he testified. “It felt like forever.”
“Your perception of how time was going by was kind of distorted, wasn’t it?” asked Dana Fox, an attorney for the Dodgers.
Fox also demonstrated to the jury the distance Maciel said he was from Stow at the time of the attack. Using two tape measures and asking Maciel and a fellow attorney to help hold up the ends, Fox walked across the courtroom until he was 30 feet away. The plaintiffs have alleged that the parking lot was poorly lighted and visibility was low, while the defense has attempted to turn witnesses’ testimony into refuting that assertion.
“From that distance in that parking lot with whatever the lighting conditions were, you could see Sanchez?” Fox asked.
Maciel said yes.