Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

2 LAPD officers placed on leave amid probe into leak of Rihanna photo

September 11, 2009 |  9:15 am
Rihanna and Chris Brown at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles

Two Los Angeles police officers have been placed on paid leave as part of an ongoing investigation into how a photo showing the battered face of Rihanna appeared on a celebrity website after the singer was assaulted by her former boyfriend Chris Brown, four law enforcement sources familiar with the case told The Times.

The night before the Grammy Awards in February, Rihanna argued with Brown, who bit, punched and choked the singer in a rented Lamborghini in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, leaving her bruised and bloodied, police said.

Two weeks later, a photo of Rihanna that showed those injuries appeared on the entertainment gossip website TMZ.com. The sources confirmed that the investigation is focused on at least two officers.

One of the officers, identified by sources as Rebecca M. Reyes, is a nine-year veteran of the department and was last assigned to the Wilshire Division. Her attorney told The Times that a search warrant in connection with the leak investigation had been served on her Los Angeles home.

The other, Blanca Lopez, is a rookie officer with the Hollenbeck Division and was a housemate of Reyes, according to sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because it was an ongoing investigation.

Both have been “assigned to home” pending the outcome of the probe, according to the sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.

Attorney Ira Salzman, who is representing Reyes, confirmed that the LAPD assigned his client to home during the Rihanna photo investigation but said his client had done nothing illegal and that department officials had not yet presented any formal allegations against her. Salzman, who described his client as a decorated officer, would not comment on whether Reyes had taken the picture of Rihanna or had at any time possessed it.

“My client did not do anything for financial gain,” Salzman said. “She did not sell the photo.”

Robert Rico, the attorney for Officer Lopez, declined to comment on the investigation. LAPD officials also declined to discuss their investigation, including who took the photograph, how it came into the possession of TMZ.com and how much, if any, money may have paid to the officers or associates for the image.

Also was unclear whether the image that was posted on the site was taken with a personal phone or with department-issued photographic equipment.

LAPD spokesman Lt. John Romero described the investigation as “a personnel matter” and said, “We are investigating vigorously.”

Romero said the department would not comment on whether any officers have been assigned to home.

A state law that went into effect this year makes it a misdemeanor for peace officers or law enforcement employees to profit by leaking confidential reports or images. In addition, the LAPD also has adopted strict rules about recording still or video images at crime scenes, which they made more explicit last year after a series of celebrity-related arrests in which details, and even images, appeared on celebrity and gossip websites.

Donald Etra, the attorney for Rihanna, whose real is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, said Thursday that he was pleased that police had gotten to the bottom of the case. He said that no victim should have to worry about such photographs being leaked. He also noted that his client had “nothing but praise for the LAPD.”

-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

Photo: Chris Brown and Rihanna at awards show before beating incident. Credit: Associated Press