The newly released LA County Coroner’s report into the death of Ronni Chasen continues to raise questions into how the Beverly Hills Police Department handled the high-profile murder investigation of one of Hollywood’s best-known names in publicity. Today, an LA Times story revealed that a police officer reported that another “unknown vehicle” had pulled up alongside her. Specifically, according to the LAT, “the (coroner’s) report states that while Chasen was stopped at a red light at the intersection, “an unknown vehicle pulled up and someone fired approximately four gunshots into her vehicle.”
Chasen was killed after leaving the premiere of the musical film Burlesque on November 16, 2010 in Beverly Hills. Questions arose early on about whether the death was a hit, given the fact that nothing was taken out of the Chasen’s car and that veteran police officers in the LAPD questioned whether the man named as the shooter — a black male — would pedal on a bicycle all the way into Beverly Hills from Hollywood to commit a robbery without any police officer in the area noticing. Those questions are still being asked, despite the Beverly Hills Police Department closing the Chasen case in July 2011.
The BHPD today say the coroner’s report has not in anyway impacted the final result of their case, which will remain closed. “The Beverly Hills Police Department is proud of its investigation of the Ronni Chasen homicide and we stand by our final conclusion,” said a spokesman.
The suspect lived in the the 5600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles and the murder happened in the 800 block of Whittier Drive in Beverly Hills. So the suspect, indigent and behind on rent pedaled seven miles away to look for someone to rob –something that other veteran detectives in the LAPD continue to question. “If he needed money, there are many places closer than where he went to get it. After you pass the Soho House on Sunset, there are no stores, there are no shops, you have the Beverly Hills Hotel, but little foot traffic,” said one law enforcement source who has investigated over 100 homicides. “And the police are there all the time outside those bars like the Soho just waiting for the drunk drivers. A black man on a bicycle going into Beverly Hills would have been stopped.”
The Beverly Hills Police also held a press conference when only 60%-70% of the investigation was completed and without LAPD assistance even though there was an open investigation into the suspected shooter in the Hollywood-area apartment building where he committed suicide after police were tipped off by a source that called into America’s Most Wanted.
Also under scrutiny is whether the BHPD had conducted a thorough investigation using a CAD program – an animated program created by the Walt Disney Co. over 10 years that law enforcement in L.A. use to look at the angle of the shot, trajectory, the most likely scenario that would have occurred. (There are two other crime tools that law enforcement also: Virtual Crime Scene and that from the Force Science Institute. Every time there is a shooting, especially an officer-involved shooting, they re-create the crime scene using this kind of software.) The BHPD would have had to re-construct the height of the shooter, the height of the bicycle he was riding, the trajectory from that angle, etc. A law enforcement source at the time of the murder noted that the bicycle was in LAPD custody at the time of the press BHPD conference.
“I have always said, if he was up on a bicycle shooting into the car, it just didn’t make sense,” said the high-level law enforcement source. “Nothing about (their scenario) makes sense.”
At the time of the BHPD press conference, without a doubt, law enforcement was investigating other possible scenarios … and later, were interested in who those were attending her funeral. They had been given tips on scenarios to do with a family member and gambling debts and people connected with that. They had been given tips about others in the entertainment industry and Chasen’s personal business dealings. They were checking into many leads. But at the end, the BHPD concluded that it was a lone shooter and a botched robbery.
This is not the first time the Beverly Hills Police Department murder investigations have been questioned. After the death of actor Mark Ruffalo’s brother Scott, the Beverly Hills Police proclaimed his death a suicide by Russian roulette. Then they had to reverse their stance after the coroner’s report showed it was impossible for Ruffalo to have shot himself in the head because of the angle of the entry of the bullet. They then labeled it a homicide.
The 39-year-old hairdresser died a week later from the gunshot wound. During that time, two people were escorted into the BHPD for questioning: the daughter of a wealthy Saudi businessman named Shaha Mishaal Adham and her boyfriend Brian Scofield. Both were released after questioning. They were, however, both booked on suspicion of attempted murder before being released. According to a law enforcement source, “I know there were more than one set of prints on the gun. One was Ruffalo’s.”
Since that time, Adham succumbed from what sources said was an apparent drug overdose. It happened at the beginning of January 2012. In fact, I tweeted it on January 7 when I heard that her body had been moved to the morgue, but it was not reported anywhere until the following month by the LAT.
According to the BHPD, the Ruffalo case is also now closed.