Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon, center, is pictured with his… (El Nacional photo by Guillermo…)
Accompanied by his mother and a lawyer, Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon, suspected of killing a man during a New Year's Eve party, surrendered Monday to police in the Dominican Republic and said the shooting had been an accident.
Police said Simon, in blue jeans and a dark purple shirt, handed over a gun used in the incident, which resulted in the death of a 25-year-old man and the wounding of his 17-year-old half brother. Authorities said Simon fled after the 4 a.m. shootings Saturday and later they issued an arrest warrant for him.
A spokesman for the National Police, Lt. Gonzalez Mateo, told The Baltimore Sun that the case remained under investigation and that any possible charges would have to await the detectives' conclusion. "They have to determine what happened one way or the other," he said. "The justice system will take care of that."
Meanwhile, Simon was being held in Santiago pending the result of ballistics tests that would determine whether the bullet that killed Michael Esteban Castillo Almonte came from Simon's gun, according to a source close to the investigation.
At the National Police station in the port city of San Felipe de Puerto Plata, Simon told reporters that Castillo Almonte had been "like a brother" and that his death was unintended.
"It wasn't a thing like we began arguing and I started shooting," Simon said. "It was some accident. It happened by accident. That's why I came here — to open my soul."
The chief prosecutor for Puerto Plata province, Victor Mueses, told reporters that, based on information gleaned from Simon's conversation with authorities, the incident appeared to be a case of involuntary manslaughter, a charge that, if proven, could lead to a sentence of up to two years in prison.
"The version that we have is that there was a dispute between two women and he tried to dissolve it, fired a shot that ended up wounding a young person in the arm and that same bullet lodged in the chest of the deceased," Mueses told the Associated Press. He added that he planned to ask a judge to impose on Simon three months of preventive detention while the case is pending.
One of Simon's lawyers, Carlos Olivares, gave a different account of the incident, saying his client had been firing random, celebratory shots with a group of local men in a park in the coastal town of Luperon. He said Simon could not have fired the fatal shot because he was firing into the air and Castillo Almonte — who the lawyer said was the pitcher's cousin — was shot in the chest. "We are giving the weapon so that the national police can do the pertinent ballistics tests," Olivares said.
Unaware that anyone had been hurt, Simon left the scene after the incident, his lawyer said, and went to a discotheque to continue celebrating the new year. Half an hour later, Olivares said, someone went to the club to tell Simon he had fired a fatal shot.
"The fact is that in this incident, many people fired guns, but the only person who's been summoned for this is my client," Olivares said at the police station, according to an account in the Dominican newspaper El Nacional.
Olivares' representation of Simon is being bankrolled by former Orioles star Miguel Tejada, a compatriot who befriended Simon before being traded to the San Diego Padres in July. Tejada said by telephone Monday morning that he spoke with friends in the Dominican Republic to help him choose a firm that could best help Simon. Tejada said he expects to pick up the bill, although former Orioles infielder Julio Lugo also has taken an active role, he said, and may help with the expenses. Lugo accompanied Simon to the police station Monday.
"Alfredo is a kid I really love a lot," Tejada said. "He is in trouble right now, and that's what we do, we stick together. We wanted some big company attorneys, there are some good ones here in the Dominican and this is a special case."
Tejada said he spoke with Simon on Sunday and that the pitcher is doing well, given the circumstances. "He is fine," Tejada said. "He told me he doesn't have anything to do with it, he is not the one to do it, and I believe him. I tell him I am with him and if there's anything he needs, I am here."
Lugo said he advised Simon to surrender after he had fled from the scene. "He is scared because he recognizes that he fired shots, although they went into the air," Lugo said.
After more than a day of silence from Simon's team, Orioles management told The Sun on Monday afternoon that it would send a high-ranking official to the Dominican Republic later in the day to learn more about the situation involving the right-handed reliever.