Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball icon Kobe Bryant and mother of their daughter Gianna, has filed a legal action over unauthorized pictures taken by members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department a fatal January 26 helicopter crash, People reported on Friday.
The plaintiff had asked Sheriff Alex Villanueva to secure the crash site for privacy reasons.
“In reality, however, no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches,” the plaintiff team wrote. “As the Department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes.”
One of the deputies allegedly showed the photos in order to “impress a woman at a bar.” That ended up exposing the pictures. Someone overheard this encounter, and filed a complaint online with the department.
“I am devastated and heartbroken by the conduct of those first responders who had the responsibility to protect the dignity and privacy of the victims who perished in the tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas,” said in March.
Villanueva said at the time that he ordered those pictures be destroyed.
“We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them,” he told NBC 4 at the time. “And we’re content that those involved did that.”
But Vanessa Bryant expressed no such confidence. Quite the opposite. The claim asserted that she had learned about individuals who’d allegedly seen the pictures on the Internet.
“Mrs. Bryant is deeply worried that all copies of the sheriff’s deputies’ photos have not been accounted for, and that it is only a matter of time before she or her daughters encounter them on the Internet,” plaintiffs said.
They seek damages for emotional distress and mental anguish. A LASD spokesman told Law&crime on the phone Friday afternoon that they had not been served the complaint.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has not received this claim and has no comment at this time,” the office wrote after we followed up via email.
Nine people died in the January 26 helicopter crash:
- Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
- The pilot Ara Zobayan
- young Alyssa Altobelli
- her mother Keri Altobelli
- Alyssa’s father, college baseball coach John Altobelli
- middle-schooler Payton Chester
- her mother Sarah Chester
- Christina Mauser, a basketball coach at Harbor Day School.
Vanessa Bryant has claimed pilot negligence.
Update – May 8, 4:19 p.m.: We added an email response from the LASD.
[Image via Presley Ann/Getty Images for Baby2Baby]
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