Report: Apparent beating of 49ers fan outside SoFi Stadium was kept under wraps for days

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LOS ANGELES — Officials faced growing questions Thursday about why they failed to inform the public of the apparent beating of a San Francisco 49ers fan outside SoFi Stadium on Sunday and the need to additional security measures before the Super Bowl.

It took three days and a Times investigation before authorities in Inglewood confirmed the incident, which left 40-year-old restaurant owner Daniel Luna in a medically induced coma.

Luna was found bleeding in a stadium parking lot just after 4 p.m. Sunday, about half an hour into the NFC Championship showdown against the Rams, but it’s still unclear who made the call to the 911 which ultimately resulted in her being transported to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Nor has it been established why it took authorities hours to learn of the incident. Inglewood police launched their investigation around 7pm after being tipped off by emergency personnel who noted injuries suggesting Luna had been attacked.

Some experts said the timing of the incident – weeks before the nation’s attention turned to the stadium for the Super Bowl – created a “public relations nightmare”. Others said it raised significant questions about safety and security protocols at big games, noting it was not the first such assault in the highly charged Los Angeles-San Francisco sports rivalry. .

On Wednesday, hours before The Times reported the attack, public health officials, local leaders, and representatives from the NFL and SoFi Stadium held a press conference to discuss COVID-19 safety protocols for the Super Bowl, but the hits were never mentioned.

Horace Frank, a former LAPD deputy chief who oversaw the game’s main security operations, said it was unconscionable for authorities to delay revealing the assault.

“You should release this information to the public because the author is a danger to public safety and a threat to the community,” Frank told The Times. “You want to bring those responsible for this heinous attack into custody as soon as possible.”

As of Thursday, no information on the suspects had been released and the Inglewood Police Department had not responded to requests for additional information.

Veteran public relations executive Fred Cook, who directs USC’s Center for Public Relations, said he generally advises large organizations “to release information as quickly and accurately as possible,” in part to reassure the public “We are doing everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“Having the Super Bowl play out there in a short period of time creates a different circumstance for what you’re communicating,” said Cook, who has advised companies including Amazon, Nintendo and McDonald’s.

Well-known Southern California public relations and crisis manager Eric Rose said he was giving the Rams and stadium officials the “benefit of the doubt” because they may not have had all of them. the facts, but “what they do in the future”. will decide their reputation in the community.

So far, the response has not been robust.

In a statement provided to The Times, SoFi Stadium officials said they were “aware of and saddened by the incident.”

“Our thoughts are with Mr. Luna’s friends and family during this difficult time. We are working with law enforcement officials in their investigation,” stadium representatives said.

SoFi Stadium spokeswoman Kristi Mexia, when asked for a follow-up interview to this statement, said, “This is the only comment we are able to provide at this time.”

She did not answer a list of questions, including when stadium officials first learned of the incident and what they are doing to keep fans safe at the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.

City of Inglewood social media accounts were also silent on the incident Thursday afternoon, and Mayor James T. Butts did not respond to a request for comment.

While the motives behind the SoFi incident are unclear, it has parallels to the infamous 2011 beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow outside of Dodger Stadium. But in this case, police reported the beating to the media within hours and asked the public for help in locating the suspects. And there were several witnesses in the Stow case; Luna flew to Los Angeles and attended the game alone, a friend told The Times.

Still, David Lira, a member of Stow’s legal team, said the incident at SoFi “comes as no surprise”.

“It’s predictable, and because it’s predictable, that’s why you should always ask the owners to constantly review their security plan and change it based on the teams and crowds that enter the stadium,” said Lira said. “It’s common sense.”

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the stadium said parts of the grounds were not fully covered by cameras. Most security is concentrated inside and immediately around the stadium, and parking lots are left to people directing traffic, they said.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said Luna was found on the ground near Lot L, which is off Stadium Drive across from a man-made lake south of the stadium.

Even inside the stadium, several videos have emerged in recent months of violent altercations by supporters which lasted considerably long before security intervened. The total number of altercations was not immediately available.

Sources said the stadium was encouraged to bring in more LA County Sheriff’s deputies to bolster security after internal concerns surfaced there wasn’t enough enforcement of the law for the police of the often drunk and angry fans.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said last week he had assigned 380 people to the Super Bowl to help ensure the safest game possible.

Rose, the crisis manager, said now is the time for SoFi Stadium and Inglewood to be proactive. He mentioned displaying rewards to help law enforcement find the perpetrators of the attack, and also clarifying the security measures in place for people attending the games.

“They should call anyone with video or information to contact a particular number,” he said.

Police said they would go through the video footage in an effort to find those involved in the assault.

More than 70,000 people attended Sunday’s game – including Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – but so far no public video footage of the attack has been released.

Alex Comisar, a spokesperson for Garcetti, noted that the incident was outside the mayor’s jurisdiction and that neither he nor the LAPD knew of the assault until it was reported in the news. Los Angeles Police Department officials immediately contacted their counterparts in Inglewood to offer assistance, he said.

“Senseless acts of violence like this have no place in a civilized society,” Comisar said. “The mayor’s thoughts are with the victim of this horrific attack and his loved ones, and he hopes that whoever committed this crime is quickly found and brought to justice.”

The 49ers expressed similar condolences in a statement to The Times.

“What happened to Daniel Luna is reprehensible and we strongly condemn any violence. We know that local authorities in Los Angeles are conducting a thorough investigation and we are here to support them as much as possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Luna, his family, friends and the medical team providing his care,” the team said.

Regarding Super Bowl security, Comisar said highly trained law enforcement professionals were leading a “multi-agency effort” to secure the game.

“Local residents and fans who come from out of town need to know that they are safe and that all necessary steps are being taken to protect their well-being,” he said.

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©2022 Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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