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Lodi man arrested in connection with fatal stabbing in San Francisco

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Michael Montgomery

Jonathan Denver

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013 3:22 pm | Updated: 5:20 am, Fri Sep 27, 2013.

The father of a Lodi man accused of fatally stabbing a 24-year-old Dodgers fan said his son told him it was self-defense. Michael Montgomery, 21, was arrested and booked into San Francisco Jail on suspicion of homicide, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Montgomery is accused of stabbing to death Jonathan Denver, from Fort-Bragg, following altercations near AT&T Park Wednesday night.

At his home nestled in a quiet Lodi cul-de-sac, Marty Montgomery said his son had called from a San Francisco police officer’s telephone at around 3 p.m. Thursday while in custody.

Montgomery told his father that Denver, who was wearing Los Angles Dodgers attire, yelled, “Giants suck,” at Montgomery’s friend, who was wearing a Giants hat, according to Marty Montgomery. 

Michael Montgomery told his father that after his friend responded, Denver and others assaulted him without warning. According to his father, Montgomery said that during the fight, Denver hit him over the head with a chair, and in self-defense, he stabbed Denver.

“It was a self-defense deal,” Marty Montgomery said. “(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.”

Marty Montgomery, appearing distraught, said that his son was in San Francisco attending a concert near where the fight happened. Michael Montgomery and a small group of friends had walked to a convenience store to purchase alcohol when the fight started, Marty Montgomery said.

Marty Montgomery said he’d been trying to reach his son all day with no luck. But Michael Montgomery finally called, sobbing, and told his father about the fight.

“He’s freaking out,” Marty Montgomery said. “He’s like, ‘I saw him die in his dad’s arms.’”

Michael Montgomery and a friend went to Marty’s Montgomery’s house in to pick up the Giants hat before they left for San Francisco Wednesday afternoon. 

“If they didn’t have the hat, they probably never would have been in this situation,” said Marty Montgomery, adding that his son is not a passionate San Francisco Giants fan. 

 Marty Montgomery said his son graduated from the Lodi Adult School in 2011 and previously worked at Cottage Bakery in Lodi.

His son is currently applying for jobs, hoping to become an electrician, like his father. 

“He's a good kid,” Marty said. “He's a really great kid. He has lots of friends. He's not violent. He's smart. It’s really, really sad.”

Marty Montgomery, dressed in a t-shirt and blue-jeans, leaned against his front door and stared at the floor while his two pit bulls laid quietly in the living room.

“I’ve been crying all day,” he said. “How do you explain the loss of somebody else. I don’t know what happened for real. All I know is what he’s telling me. But just the whole situation of (Denver) dying over just a few words — it just doesn’t make sense. This is a parent’s worst nightmare, whether it was self-defense or not. You don’t want your kid to have to go through that. This is a real bad day.”

Marty Montgomery is divorced from Michael Montgomery’s mother, Victoria Montgomery, who also lives in Lodi. Michael Montgomery lives with his mother, his father said.

San Francisco police say Denver was with his father, brother and two other people a few blocks from the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark Wednesday night when their group exchanged words with some Giants fans who were leaving a nightclub.

The exchange turned physical and Denver, who was wearing Dodgers gear, was stabbed to death.

“There is no rational explanation for this senseless act,” the Dodgers said in a written statement. “The pain that this has caused his family and friends is unimaginable.”

Denver attended the game with his relatives but left in the eighth inning of what turned out to be a 6-4 Giants victory. His attackers did not attend the game, police said.

In addition to Michael Montgomery, San Francisco police said another person, whose name was not released, was also taken into custody. Following Montgomery's arrest, police have released the other man in custody.

“One of the suspects during the course of the interviews (with detectives) made incriminating statements that give us the indication that he will be the person booked for homicide,” Police Chief Greg Suhr told reporters.

“We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do with the other suspect,” Suhr said. “The investigation is still ongoing.”

Fans of both teams expressed a range of emotions as they entered Thursday night’s game at AT&T Park.

“I was a little bit scared at first but then I thought tonight will probably be the safest night at this ballpark, so I thought it was still OK to bring my son out to the game,” said Clay Brust, a Dodgers fan from Reno, Nev.

Brian Chew, a Giants Fan from San Bruno, Calif., said the stabbing was unfortunate.

“It seems like the passion that exudes in some fans is really pointed in the wrong direction,” Chew said. “We have bigger purposes in life than just orange and black, or blue and white.” 

The altercation several blocks from the ballpark was the second violent confrontation between Dodgers and Giants fans in the past several years to end in death or serious injury. Bryan Stow, a Northern California paramedic and Giants fan suffered a traumatic brain injury after two men dressed in Dodgers gear attacked him following the teams’ March 31, 2011, game in Los Angeles. 

Stow’s family said in a statement that they were “horrified and deeply saddened” by Wednesday’s violence. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”

Denver, his father and his brother had left a bar around 11:30 p.m. — about 90 minutes after the game ended — when they exchanged heated words about the Giants-Dodgers rivalry with another group of people leaving a nightclub.

One of the members of the group was wearing a Giants hat, Suhr said. 

A fight broke out, and no one was seriously hurt at first. But a second altercation occurred a few minutes later, Suhr said. 

“We’re not sure at this time who wouldn’t let it go. It wasn’t clear who started the second fight,” Suhr said, but it ended with Denver’s stabbing. 

“Obviously, this is one of the most storied rivalries in baseball. That said, and I’m a big Giants fan, there is no place at these games for violence,” Suhr said. “Nobody’s life should be at stake whether they are at the game, leaving the game, whether it’s six blocks away and an hour and a half after the game.” 

Police were canvassing the area Thursday looking for the weapon used to kill Denver and any surveillance video of the crime. 

Denver was born in Los Angeles County but was living in Fort Bragg, about 170 miles north of San Francisco, according to public records. He and his brother came to San Francisco to meet their father for the game, said Cas Smith, the owner of North Coast Plumbing in Fort Bragg, where Denver worked. 

“He was a hardworking kid,” Smith told KNTV-TV. 

Denver, who just started a job as an apprentice at a plumbing company, did have two recent brushes with the law in Mendocino County, according to KGO-TV. He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in July, and for public intoxication at the county fair this month. 

Police said they didn’t know if alcohol was a factor in Wednesday’s stabbing.

In Fort Bragg, longtime friend Matt Gomes told KGO-TV that Denver was a die-hard Dodgers fan who “was a really great guy who would do anything for anybody and always put a smile on people’s faces when he was around.” 

The Giants said in a statement that they would observe a moment of silence for Denver at Thursday’s game and increase security around the ballpark.  

“While details are still emerging, we want to be clear that there is absolutely no place in our community for this type of senseless violence,” the team said in a statement. 

Police, too, said they planned to have more officers on the streets, although they said their presence is already higher during Giants-Dodgers games. 

The teams, which moved west in the 1950s — the Dodgers from Brooklyn and the Giants from New York City — are longtime, fierce National League Western Division rivals, and passions tend to run high when the teams play in both cities. 

The Giants won the World Series last year and in 2010 but are poised to miss the playoffs this season. The Dodgers, on the other hand, were in last place just two months ago but clinched the division last week. 

Violence has marred previous contests between the teams. In 2003, Giants fan Marc Antenorcruz, 25, was fatally shot by a group of Dodgers fans after a drunken argument at Dodger Stadium.  

Stow, the paramedic beaten in a parking lot after the Dodgers’ 2011 home opener, is still recovering from his injuries.

Two Dodgers fans are awaiting trial on charges in the beating, which sparked outrage and brought stadium security changes around the state and country. 

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Terry Collins, Sudhin Thanawala, Lisa Leff, Jason Dearen and Haven Daley, and Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco; AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles; and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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