Vanessa Bryant has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department over photos that were taken by multiple deputies at the Kobe Bryant crash scene and leaked publicly. The claim details how those involved in both taking and sharing the images were inexplicably never reprimanded by the department for their actions.
Deputies ordered to delete photos of Kobe Bryant crash
In early March, more than a month after LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva learned eight deputies had taken or exchanged graphic photos from the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash scene, the sheriff announced he had ordered the officers to delete the photos from their devices.
He said in an interview with NBC, his No. 1 priority was to ensure the photos no longer existed. “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. And, we’re content that those involved did that.”
How could Villanueva trust the same officers, who had betrayed his trust, and more importantly, the public’s trust by taking the photos in the first place?
Villanueva said, at the time, he was focused on containing the potential distribution of the photos, rather than punishing the deputies.
“Had we done the original, usual routine, which was relieve everybody of duty and everybody lawyers up and all that, that would increase the odds 10-fold that those photos would have some how made their way into the public domain. And that’s definitely what we do not want,” he said.
A 10-fold increase of the photos making it into the public domain? Where does the Sheriff get those numbers?
Vanessa Bryant files lawsuit
On Friday, Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, filed a lawsuit seeking damages for emotional distress and mental anguish for the actions of the deputies. In the claim, Bryant criticizes the department’s handling of the investigation and for not disciplining the officers involved.
“Rather than formally investigate the allegations to identify the extent of dissemination and contain the spread of the photos, Department leadership reportedly told deputies that they would face no discipline if they just deleted the photos,” the filing reads.
“Mrs. Bryant was distressed to learn that the Department did not initiate a formal investigation until after the L.A. Times broke the story on or about February 28, and that the Department had taken few if any steps to contain the spread of the photos.”
Bryant’s claim also indicates she is aware that people have seen the photos on the internet, and she is concerned her other daughters might view the grisly photos from the crash scene.
LA County Sheriff’s office not accountable
In March, when it was initially revealed that deputies had taken photos, Villanueva suggested he wanted to approach state government for a “legislative remedy” where it is a crime for taking unauthorized photos at accident scenes that show the remains of the deceased.
The LA Police Department changed its rules for officers’ phones after images of Rihanna’s bruised face appeared on TMZ. The department informed its officers any images captured while on duty, even if on a personal cellphone, should be considered an official LAPD record, and subject to the same restrictions as a confidential document or crime scene photo.
While the LA County District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against the two female officers involved in the Rihanna photos, LAPD internal affairs concluded they were responsible for releasing the photos, and one of the officers was fired by the department.
If Villanueva truly cared about the privacy of the citizens he is there to serve and protect, he should have done the same thing and fired those deputies involved for their egregious violations. Now he will have to address it in the court room.