On Tuesday, news broke that Vanessa Bryant, the wife of late NBA star Kobe Bryant, is suing the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department after deputies allegedly captured and shared photos of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe and Gianna Bryant on their personal phones. According to the claim, those photos were shared publicly and illegally. Bryant also said that the department’s response when they learned of the shared photos was “grossly insufficient.” Despite the fact that the department had allegedly known about the photos since February, a formal investigation wasn't initiated until after the Los Angeles Times reported the story in March.
The crash, which took place on 26 January in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, resulted in the deaths of nine people, including Kobe and Gianna. The lawsuit details the events in the aftermath of the crash. Bryant claims that Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured her that deputies secured the crash site to ensure privacy for the victim’s families. But according to Bryant, that was not the case.
“The biggest threat to the sanctity of the victims’ remains proved to be the Sheriff’s Department itself,” the lawsuit reads. “Faced with a scene of unimaginable loss, no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies at the crash site pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches. The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification.” According to the suit, the sheriff’s department later admitted that there were no investigative purposes for taking these photos.
Bryant also filed a claim against the department earlier this year for the same issue, which comes as a precursor to the lawsuit she filed last week. The claim states that the deputies involved are liable for “negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of her right to privacy,” reports the LA Times.
The lawsuit comes at a tumultuous time for Bryant and her family, and coincides with the widow's soon-to-be-released on-camera interview given by her mother, Sofia Laine. In the interview with Univision reporter Dave Valadez, Laine claims that she was kicked out of the house after the crash. Bryant is rumoured to be unsupportive of her mother's interview, and the lawsuit comes at a difficult time for her family.
But it's no surprise that the news about the lawsuit is breaking so late after it actually happened: Leadership at the LA Sheriff's department has reportedly kept the news quiet for weeks. According to Villanueva, he ordered the eight deputies involved to delete all copies of the photos; however, the lawsuit alleges that one deputy used the photos in an attempt to impress a woman at a bar. The conversation was overheard by a bartender who reported it to the department. Following reports that the photos were being distributed, Bryant’s attorney Gary Robb requested an internal investigation which wasn’t officially announced until March.
“This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families,” Robb told the LA Times. The investigation is reportedly still ongoing.