The Los Angeles Police Department opened an internal investigation late Thursday into whether a picture posted on a celebrity gossip website purportedly showing the bloody and bruised face of R&B star Rihanna was part of police evidence in the case, department officials said in a statement.
The photo posted by TMZ.com at 8:39 p.m. Eastern Standard Time time under the headline "Rihanna -- The Face of a Battered Woman" showed a woman said to be Rihanna with her eyes closed, a fat lip and apparent bruising to her forehead. The site ran a short sentence above the photo stating "TMZ has obtained a photo of Rihanna taken after Chris Brown allegedly beat her."
The LAPD currently is investigating an alleged altercation between Rihanna and singer Chris Brown, who police said injured the female artist during a fight the couple had last week in a Hancock Park neighborhood the morning of the Grammy Awards.
The department issued a statement that said the photograph has the appearance of one taken during an official domestic violence investigation.
"The Los Angeles Police Department takes seriously its duty to maintain the confidentiality of victims of domestic violence," it read. "The Department launched an immediate internal investigation and subsequently filed a personnel complaint. A violation of this type is considered serious misconduct, with penalties up to and including termination."
Brown was arrested Feb. 8 on suspicion of making criminal threats but was not immediately charged because the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said police needed to gather additional evidence in the case.
Police sources have said that Rihanna is cooperating with investigators in building a domestic violence case against Brown and indicated that she had suffered bruises and a scratch on her face resulting from the early morning altercation with Brown. She was treated at a "major medical facility," a police source said.
Brown, 19, who has a double-platinum record and dance moves often compared to Michael Jackson's, fled before officers arrived, police said.
He remains free on $50,000 bail and, through his public relations firm, issued an apology for the incident that rocked the Grammys. Brown and Rihanna were both nominated; neither attended the ceremony.