Vanessa Bryant Identifies Deputies Accused of Sharing Crash Photos

Vanessa Bryant speaks at the public memorial for Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Vanessa Bryant has revealed the names of the four Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies accused of sharing unauthorized photos from the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna and seven others.

In a series of 12 Instagram posts Wednesday night, Bryant shared copies of court documents with her 14 million followers that identified the deputies as Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales.

Bryant highlighted the names of the four men with a red marker on the first page of the lawsuit, which lists the men as defendants along with the Los Angeles County government, the sheriff’s department and the county fire department.

Related Story: Federal Investigators Confirm Cause of Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash

The lawsuit alleges negligence, invasion of privacy, and a violation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which says no state should deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the law.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled in Bryant’s favor, granting her permission to obtain the names of the four deputies accused of sharing the graphic images. The names of the deputies were later added to the lawsuit.

Right after the crash on Jan. 26, 2020 in the hills above Calabasas, the lawsuit says Bryant asked L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to make sure the scene was secured to prevent photographers from coming there to take pictures.

Despite assurances by Villanueva, the lawsuit says an LASD investigation later found “deputies who responded to the crash scene used personal cell phones to take and share gratuitous photos of dead children, parents and coaches.”

The LASD launched that investigation after a Los Angeles Times report said sources revealed the photos were being shared inappropriately.

The suit alleges Cruz showed the images to his niece and “made a crude remark about the state of the victims’ remains.”

The court documents also say Cruz went to Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk, California and “boasted that he had worked at the scene of the accident where Kobe Bryant had died.” According to the lawsuit, Cruz allegedly showed the photos to another bar patron and the bartender, and “he is seen on the bar’s security camera zooming in and out of the images while displaying them to the bartender.”

Shortly after Vanessa Bryant posted the names of the deputies, Villanueva issued a statement on Twitter, saying: “We will refrain from trying this case in the media and will wait for the appropriate venue. Our hearts go out to all the families affected by this tragedy.”

Along with Kobe and Gianna Bryant; the others killed in the crash were pilot Ara Zobayan; Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife Keri Altobelli; their 14-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.