Police have arrested a 21-year-old California man in the killing of a 24-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers fan who was fatally stabbed after the team's Wednesday night loss to the San Francisco Giants.
Michael Montgomery, of Lodi, was arrested Thursday in connection with the homicide, which San Francisco police said was sparked by a rivalry-fueled fight that broke out near AT&T Park at 11:49 p.m Wednesday.
Authorities are still looking for two suspects involved in the stabbing of Jonathan Denver, who had traveled to San Francisco from Fort Bragg, Calif., to be with his father, a security guard for the Dodgers who lives in Alhambra, Calif., to root for the Los Angeles-based team. San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said another 18-year-old was questioned, but released.
"There is no place at these games for violence," Suhr said, adding that he is a big Giants fan. "Nobody's life should be at stake...Be respectful of everybody wanting to root for whoever they want to root for."
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Denver, a plumbing apprentice with two recent arrests in connection with drinking, his father, his father's girlfriend, his brother and another friend had left the game during the eighth inning, at about 10 p.m., to go to a bar for drinks, Suhr said at a Thursday news conference. An aunt said they were there to celebrate the father's birthday.
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At around 11:30 p.m., Denver's group bumped into the suspects' group about four blocks away from the park, at Third and Harrison streets, and the two groups exchanged some sort of "Dodgers-Giants" comments, Suhr said. The suspects' group had not been at a game, but at a nightclub.
The two groups parted ways after the heated exchange, but moments later a second fight erupted, and Denver realized he had been stabbed. One of the suspects was wearing a Giants hat. Denver, his brother and his father were all wearing Dodgers blue. The two suspects were detained a short time later at Second and Howard streets - although one was let go after questioning. Denver died later at San Francisco General Hospital. Police are now looking for the weapon.
"It's just senseless," Suhr said. "We have zero tolerance for violence. Be respectful. Nobody needs to be hurt."
Many fans agreed. People said in person and on Twitter that team rivalries should be left on the field. On NBC Bay Area's Facebook page, Lorenzo Madrid wrote: "Pathetic, it's a game!"
Denver's death prompted the police to step up security for Thursday night's game between the Giants and Dodgers, the teams' last meeting of the season. The Giants, which observed a moment of silence honoring Denver at that game, sent out a statement saying the team was "deeply saddened to learn of last night’s horrific incident that occurred several blocks from the ballpark .... Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."
The news took those who knew Denver by surprise. Fort Bragg is a small city on the northern coast of California in Mendocino County where Denver attended Fort Bragg High and was well-known around town, even if he had some struggles.
"He was a hardworking kid," Cas Smith, owner of North Coast Plumbing in Fort Bragg, told NBC Bay Area by phone from Fort Bragg, a three-hour drive to the north of San Francisco. "He made some mistakes in his life, but in the last 90 days, he had made a 180-degree turnaround."
Mendocino County jail records show that the California Highway Patrol arrested Denver in July for allegedly drinking and driving in Ukaiah, Calif. He was arrested again Sept. 14, for being drunk at a the Mendodino County Fair in Boonville, according to Sheriff's Capt. Gregory L. Van Patten. His mug shot for that arrest shows he was wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers T-shirt.
Smith called Denver a "nice, quiet kid" who was an apprentice plumber at the shop and not the type of person to get involved in a fight.
"They were just there for a rendezvous," Smith said.
NBC LA’s Kim Baldonado spoke with Denver’s aunt, Janet Alvarado, at her home in Covina, Calif.
"It never dawned on us to worry or be frightened for them,” Alvarado said. “I wish I could tell you how this happened and why this happened. I have no clue why anyone would do this to my family."
Wednesday's fight wasn't the first time a meeting of the rival teams has been marred by violence.
A little more than two years ago, Giants fan Bryan Stow of Santa Cruz, Calif. was brutally beaten in a parking lot outside of the Dodgers' stadium in Los Angeles. Stow survived the March 31, 2011 attack but suffered permanent brain damage. He returned home after two years of rehabilitative treatment earlier this year. Stow's alleged attackers have pleaded not guilty and Stow's family is suing the Dodger Stadium. The Giants held a fundraiser for Stow on Tuesday, and have two more planned for Thursday and Sunday.
Stow's sister, Erin Collins, in an interview with NBC Bay Area called the fatal stabbing senseless.
"We're heartbroken for Jon's family, and truly, we're keeping them in our prayers," she said.
In 2003, San Francisco Giants fan -- Mark Allen Antenocruz, 25, of Covina, Calif. -- was shot to death in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles during the eighth inning of the game. Police at the time said the shooting was triggered by the decades-old baseball rivalry.
The Giants-Dodgers rivalry is regarded as one of the most competitive in baseball, stemming in part from decades ago, when both teams used to play in New York before moving out West.
It's not just Dodgers and Giants fans, however, who have struggled with violence. A teenage football fan was attacked Sept. 22 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park during the San Francisco 49ers 27-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Anyone with information - especially video of the fight - is urged to call San Francisco police at 415-553-1146.
NBC Bay Area's Kim Tere, Lori Preuitt and NBCLA contributed to this report.