Two Los Angeles Police Department members testified Monday they thought an LAPD captain was depicted in a photo of a topless woman they first saw while officers were leering at it at two stations, with some making disparaging comments
Lt. Amira Eppolito and Detective Alfonso Munoz testified on behalf of Capt. Lillian Carranza, whose lawsuit is being tried before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury. Carranza, a 33-year veteran, alleges the department did not do enough to prevent the emotional distress she said she continues to suffer since she being told about the photo in November 2018, including the LAPD’s denial of her request that a department-wide statement be put out confirming that she was not the person in the photo.
Chief Michel Moore testified Thursday that distributing such a statement would have informed officers who knew nothing about the photo and generated curiosity in it, therefore doing more harm than good.
Carranza at the time commanded the Commercial Crimes Division and now leads the Gang and Narcotics Division. Munoz, who worked in the Commercial Crimes Division for Carranza at the time, testified by a virtual appearance that he believes he was at the Mission Community Police Station in Mission Hills when he saw about three officers looking at the image on a cellphone and referring to Carranza, with one of them saying, “Look at her (breasts).”
Munoz said he glanced at the image and believed it was Carranza’s face. He said he called the captain and she denied the photo was of her.
Asked by Carranza’s lawyer, Gregory W. Smith, about Carranza’s demeanor during the call, Munoz replied, “There is no doubt in my mind she was upset.”
Munoz called the circulation of the photo “a hot topic at the time.”
Eppolito testified that she also saw a larger group of officers at the Topanga Community Police Station, some joking, while looking at the photo. She said that although she did not know Carranza well, she had spoken to her on occasion at LAPD events and therefore also mistakenly thought the photo was of the captain.
“I did recognize it as her, I thought it to be her,” Eppolito said.
Eppolito said she decided to do something about it, in part because she also is a woman.
“I felt compelled to contact personnel,” Eppolito said.
Eppolito said she also addressed the photo issue during a subsequent station roll call. When asked how many officers had seen the photo, half raised their hands, Eppolito testified.
“I was upset,” Eppolito said, adding that she told the group it was inappropriate to act in such a way with a “sister in blue.”
Eppolito added that even before she first saw the image, there was “a lot of drama about photos.”
The lieutenant said the photo remained a frequent topic for about two weeks, but that it has never fully gone away.
“I don’t think it has ended, it comes up all the time,” Eppolito said.
In other testimony, Dr. Brian Jacks, a psychiatrist, said based on his interviews with Carranza he believes she is at a “chronically low risk” when it comes to suicide, meaning that he saw nothing about her significant anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation and depression to indicate that a decision to take her life was imminent.
Jacks said that although Carranza had the normal stress of being a police captain, has high blood pressure, underwent back and neck surgery and went through difficult periods in her life — including separating from her husband — long before finding out about the photo, he was confident that her spiral downward was triggered by finding out about the image and not getting the support she believed she was entitled to from LAPD management.
Carranza has managed to remain working despite her continuing emotional struggle, which has such swings that she sometimes wishes she would be hit by a car, Jacks testified.
“To her credit, she has been able to do that,” Jacks said.
Smith said the source of the photo has never been identified.
Carranza is scheduled to testify Tuesday. In a sworn declaration, she said the dissemination of the photo has left her “extremely humiliated and degraded in all my professional interactions, including with my superiors, subordinates, and co-workers.”