Suspect in Dodger Fan Death Released From Jail

The parents of the Lodi, Calif., man arrested on charges of stabbing an LA Dodgers fan after a Giants game say that their son says the killing was in self defense.

By Lisa Fernandez and Jean Elle
|  Sunday, Sep 29, 2013  |  Updated 1:56 PM PDT
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The sheriff's office says there wasn't enough evidence to charge Michael Montgomery in the death of Jonathan Denver, so he was released.

The sheriff's office says there wasn't enough evidence to charge Michael Montgomery in the death of Jonathan Denver, so he was released.

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The man accused in the stabbing death of Dodger fan Jonathan Denver earlier this week was released from custody Friday night, according to Sheriff's officials.

A spokesman at the jail said Michael Montgomery, 21, was processed out of the facility at 9:04 p.m.

Montgomery's release comes just hours after District Attorney George Gascon said he wasn't ready to file criminal charges in the case for lack of evidence.

Gascon said prosecutors need to be certain they can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt before proceeding. In particular, he noted that there were no interviews with independent witnesses. "It is the People's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in lawful self-defense," Gascon said. "It is vital for our office to have independent corroboration of the incident in order to meet our ethical obligation to charge this case."

According to the police account, Denver's group bumped into the suspects' group about four blocks away from AT&T Park after Wednesday night's Giants game against the Dodgers.

The two groups exchanged some sort of "Dodgers-Giants" comments.

The two groups parted ways after the heated exchange, but moments later a second fight erupted, and Denver realized he had been stabbed. He died later at San Francisco General Hospital.

One of the suspects in Montgomery's group was wearing a Giants hat, police said. Denver, his brother and his father were all wearing Dodgers blue. Two suspects were detained a short time later at Second and Howard streets - although one was let go after questioning.

Montgomery's parents told NBC Bay Area that their son claims the killing was in self-defense.

Montgomery, of Lodi, Calif., was arrested Thursday. His mother, Victoria Montgomery, says her 21-year-old son is "freaking out" about what happened when a rivalry-fueled fight turned fatal late Wednesday night.

"My son says he was hit with a chair," Victoria Montgomery said. "He was just trying to defend himself. He is in shock."

MORE: Arrest Made in Dodgers Stabbing Death

His mother's comments mirror what her ex-husband, Marty Montgomery, told the Lodi News-Sentinel after speaking with his son, who remains in San Francisco County Jail. According to that account, the suspect said Denver yelled, "Giants suck," at his friend, who was wearing a Giants hat, then Denver and others hit his son and their friends without warning. They were in San Francisco for a concert, Montgomery's mother said.

The elder Montgomery said his grandson was jumped during the fight and stabbed Denver - ironically, the son of a Dodgers security guard - to protect himself. Denver is about 6 feet 3 inches, and Montogmery is about 5 feet 8 inches, his mother said.

"It was a self-defense deal," Marty Montgomery told the Lodi paper. "(Michael) got jumped. (Denver and friends) started swinging chairs and he stabbed (Denver). (Denver) mouthed off about the San Francisco hat. It wasn't even (Michael's) hat.'"

Denver, a plumber's apprentice from Fort Bragg, Calif.,  was stabbed by the intersection of Harrison and Third streets at 11:49 p.m. His father, Robert Preece Jr., works security for the Dodgers and lives in Alhambra, Calif. His sons were there to celebrate his birthday. 

MORE: Son to Celebrate Father's Birthday at Dodgers-Giants Game

At a news conference Thursday, Police Chief Greg Suhr said that  Montgomery made some "incriminating statements" while in custody that led to his arrest. Another person, whose name was not released, was also taken into custody. Police said they were still looking for two more suspects.

The account from Montomery's parents conflicts with what one friend of the victim told the Associated Press.

MORE: Brian Wilson in Post-Game Flap with Giants CEO

Denver's friend Matt Gomes told the Associated Press that Denver was trying to help a friend who was getting beat up during the fight.

"He was defending his friend," Gomes said. "And then he got stabbed and died.'"
 
Gomes said he doesn't believe Denver, his family and friends started the fight. He said his buddy wasn't the type to get violent. 

"He was an amazing guy who made everybody happy and made them laugh. He was there for everybody," Gomes said.

As for Montgomery's mother, she isn't sure what to believe. She last spoke with her son this summer - the day before his 21st birthday. She said since she didn't live with him, she didn't know his exact goings-on. She didn't know if he owned a knife and didn't want to discuss with NBC Bay Area whether he had any past brushes with the law.

"What does it matter?" she said through tears.

She said her son graduated from Lodi Adult School and was working at a bakery, though he had wanted to go back to school to become an electrician, like his father. She hasn't spoken directly to her son - only to her ex-husband who relayed her son's version of the story to her. She learned about his arrest when she discovered reporters camped out in front of her home - she at first thought they were Mormons - and called police for help. It's the authorities who told her why the reporters were there.

Victoria Montgomery did not want to speak on camera about her son; she was emotional during a phone interview as she said she is at a loss for what to do. She feels horrible for both families.

"I don't want to say anything bad about my son," she said. "I'm sure these are both good kids and who ended up both having a bad result."
 
The  Associated Press contributed to this report.

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