SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Baltimore Orioles reliever Alfredo Simon surrendered to police Monday to face an involuntary manslaughter charge in a fatal shooting New Year's Eve. His lawyer said he was firing celebratory shots in the air.
A judge ruled that Simon could be held for up to a year pending trial.
The Dominican pitcher is suspected of killing 25-year-old Michel Castillo Almonte and wounding his 17-year-old brother in the northeast coastal town of Luperon. The dead man is Simon's cousin, according to the pitcher's lawyer.
Police initially said a murder charge would be filed against Simon, but Public Prosecutor Victor Mueses told The Associated Press on Monday that witness accounts and evidence support an involuntary manslaughter charge instead.
"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 said by phone.
Simon could face up to two years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Mueses, the public prosecutor in Puerto Plata, initially said he would request three months of preventive detention for Simon while the case is pending but later pushed for a year. Judge Adriana Vazquez Jimenez agreed.
Simon's lawyer, Carlos Olivares, told the AP that he planned a quick appeal. He said his client is not a flight risk and called the ruling an unjust decision.
The Caribbean country's legal system allows for preventive detention. Human rights groups have long said the provision is abused and thousands of people are held unjustly for extended periods.
Earlier on Monday, Olivares said his client fired random shots with a group of local boys to celebrate New Year's Eve. But he believes Simon could not have been the shooter because the player'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.
Ballistics tests should be completed in the next 48 hours, according to Dominican Police Chief Jose Polanco.
Some Dominicans shoot guns in the air on New Year's Eve especially in the hours leading to midnight, although authorities have repeatedly warned against the practice. Bystanders are killed or wounded every New Year's Eve.
Simon was accompanied to the police station by free-agent infielder Julio Lugo, who played for the Orioles last season.
"He is scared because he recognizes that he fired shots, although they went into the air," said Lugo, who advised Simon to surrender after he fled the scene.
The injured teenager was shot in the right arm and remains hospitalized in the Dominican city of Santiago.
Simon joined Baltimore in 2008 but was quickly sidelined with an injury. The 29-year-old pitcher went 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA last season. He had 17 saves before Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided to make Koji Uehara the closer.
The (Baltimore) Sun reported that John Stockstill, the Orioles' director of development, was being sent to the Dominican Republic to evaluate the situation.
"The purpose of my trip is to make sure we have the accurate facts as we move forward and take appropriate action," Stockstill told the newspaper.
Simon joined Baltimore in 2008 but was quickly sidelined with an injury. The 29-year-old pitcher went 4-2 with a 4.93 ERA last season. He had 17 saves.