Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, is “absolutely devastated” by allegations Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies shared photos of the helicopter crash scene where Kobe, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed, her legal team said in a statement.
The response came after the Los Angeles Times published a Feb. 28 story saying deputies shared “graphic” images from the crash site in Calabasas, Calif. The Times article cited two separate law enforcement sources, including one who told the paper he saw a photo on the phone of another official, “in a setting that had nothing to do with the investigation of the crash.”
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TMZ published similar claims, saying it was told by law enforcement sources that “multiple L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies who responded to the crash scene took photos that included remains.” The website described the photos as “gruesome” and said they were “passed around at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation,” which is near the location of the crash. The website said responding personnel from the Los Angeles County Fire Department also snapped photos at the crash site.
Both outlets alleged sheriff’s department leaders were aware of the photo leaks weeks ago, and told deputies they could avoid discipline if they admitted involvement and simply deleted the pictures, suggesting there was a cover-up.
In a statement shared on social media, Vanessa and her attorney Gary Robb criticized first responders for their “inexcusable” behavior.
“First responders should be trustworthy. It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LACOFD, would allegedly breach their duty,” the statement said. “This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families.”
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The statement added that Vanessa went to the sheriff’s office on Jan. 26, the day of the crash, to request that the area be immediately restricted to prevent photographers from taking pictures.
“This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families. At that time, Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured us all measures would be put in place to protect the families’ privacy, and it is our understanding that he has worked hard to honor those requests,” the statement said.
Vanessa’s attorneys called for an investigation into the photo leaks.
“We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated,” the statement said. “We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents.”