Why haven't Beverly Hills police called in the cavalry to help solve the Ronni Chasen shooting?
It's now been two weeks since the veteran publicist was gunned down, and the 90210 blue still say they have nothing — no new witnesses, no suspects, no leads.
What the independent, 136-officer department does have is the heavily resourced Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department — one of the most experienced homicide-solving agencies on the planet — waiting in the wings, ready to lend a hand if asked.
Don't count on it.
The BHPD has a history of taking care of its own homicides. The department hasn't asked for help in any high-profile case in recent years.
What's more, bad blood has boiled between it and the Sheriff's Department for a long time, one senior law enforcement official told TheWrap.
And if Beverly Hills investigators ever considered bringing in outside help, they've never let on. The BHPD have firmly and repeatedly told TheWrap that the investigation of Chasen's Nov. 16 shooting is staying local.
They're likely to keep it that way, in spite of lengthening odds.
“It is rare you have a small department with small numbers of homicides that can pull this off,” former FBI Criminal Profiler Joe Navarro told TheWrap. “This is not something they deal with very often. What you want to do is invite in as many as departments as possible and get everyone's heads together.”
Certainly one of those would be the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. Contracted to handle the policing needs of 42 of Los Angeles County's 88 cities, from West Hollywood to Compton, as well as running the jail system, the LASD, which has about 8,500 sworn deputies, is commonly called upon by other local law enforcement to conduct homicide investigations – but not this time.
“Beverly Hills conduct their own homicide investigations,” LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore told TheWrap. “We have not been asked to do anything in the Chasen case.”
The 64-year-old Chasen was shot five times in the chest with hollow-point bullets, according to a purportedly leaked coroner’s report. The attack took place on Whittier Dr., just south of Sunset Blvd. in Beverly Hills at around 12:30 a.m. while she was on her way home from the “Burlesque” premiere after-party at the W Hotel in Hollywood.
One reason the BHPD may be reluctant to ask for help: If the Sheriff’s department were to become involved, they would ostensibly take complete control of the case.
“There’s bad blood between Beverly Hills and the Sheriff’s department,” said the law enforcement official, who spoke to TheWrap on condition of anonymity. “There has been for a long time.”
The official offered no specifics about the friction between the two departments.
Chasen's killing is hardly the first high profile homicide case the BHPD chose to handle on its own. In 1989, Beverly Hills police decided to investigate the shotgun killing of Jose and Kitty Menendez themselves.
"That was a mistake,” the law enforcement official noted. “It took them a long time to make an arrest in that case, a lot longer than it should have."
It was months after the Menendez murders on Aug. 20, 1989 before the couple’s sons Erik and Lyle, who called 911 that night, were detained. It wasn’t until 1996, after the brothers' first 1993 trial ended in deadlocked juries, that the boys were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A more recent high-profile case handled by the BHPD: the Dec. 2008 gunshot-to-the-head death of Scott Ruffalo, brother of “The Kids Are All Right's" Mark Ruffalo. Despite eyewitnesses to the shooting, the investigation remains open.
Could outside help move these cases along?
“If two weeks out, a lot of questions are still left unanswered, I want to know if they know the answers and are holding them back … or are they just clueless?” wondered former FBI Agent Navarro.
There are those who believe that in the Chasen case, time and solutions are still on the BHPD’s side.
"A killing like this, be it a pre-mediated hit, a random gang initiation or something else, will always create a witness,” former U.S. deputy attorney Jack Weiss told TheWrap. “Inevitably there’s a witnesses or witnesses who hear of the crime and come forward,” adds Weiss, who currently runs the LA office of risk consultancy Kroll. “There are always third parties out there and eventually somebody talks.”
A week after she was laid to rest, for the friends and family of Ronni Chasen, as well as the Beverly Hills Police department, that person can’t come forward too soon.