Vanessa Bryant filed a legal claim against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Friday, after deputies snapped and shared unauthorized photos at the site of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
The claim filed in Los Angeles Superior Court says Vanessa personally asked Sheriff Alex Villanueva to declare a no-fly zone over the area on the morning of the crash to ensure the victims’ privacy, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“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 claim says. “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.”
Pilot Ara Zobayan; Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife Keri Altobelli; their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa Altobelli; Christina Mauser, a basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach; Payton Chester, a basketball teammate of Gianna’s; and her mother, Sarah Chester, also died in the crash.
Vanessa is seeking damages for emotional distress and mental anguish in the claim, which is one of the steps before a lawsuit is filed.
The sheriff’s department first became aware of the photos after it received a complaint from someone who saw a deputy trainee showing gruesome cell phone pictures of the crash site to a woman at a bar. The sheriff’s department did not publicly acknowledge unauthorized pictures were taken until details leaked to the media in February.
The claim says the department’s response to the matter has been “grossly insufficient,” adding that Villanueva has not disciplined the deputies 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 claim states.
The scandal prompted a state assemblyman to propose a bill this month, that would make it a misdemeanor to photograph a deceased person “for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose, or for a genuine public interest.”
Vanessa Bryant previously filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that operated the helicopter.