Vanessa Bryant Lawsuit over Kobe Crash Photos Alleges 'Egregious' Conduct

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 12, 2021

FILE - In this March 4, 2018, file photo, Vanessa Bryant, left, and Kobe Bryant arrive at the Oscars in Los Angeles. Vanessa Bryant on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, posted the names of four Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies she alleges took and shared graphic photos from the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, their daughter, Gianna, and seven others. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File

According to USA Today's Brent Schrotenboer, Bryant's attorneys said that 18 members of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and Fire Department either shared or were in possession of photos of the dead at the scene of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and seven others.

Vanessa Bryant initially filed suit in September, alleging deputies from the LASD took unauthorized photos of the crash site and seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She identified four of the deputies in a series of Instagram posts. 

One deputy trainee, Joey Cruz, was accused of entering a bar and telling the patrons he had worked at the crash site. In addition, he showed photos of the crash to another person at the establishment, with security footage purportedly confirming he was "zooming in and out of the images while displaying them to the bartender."

Per Schrotenboer, the most recent filing on Bryant's behalf said two representatives from the LAFD took pictures of the crash they say "only served to appeal to baser instincts and desires for what amounted to visual gossip." They allegedly then shared them with a third LAFD member.

According to ESPN.com, two firefighters were sent "intention to discharge" letters in December, while the third firefighter received an "intention to suspend" letter.

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed in March he had ordered eight of his deputies to delete crash photos to ensure they didn't reach the public.

"That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist," he said of the situation. "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."

However, Schrotenboer wrote Bryant's attorneys are still looking into whether Villanueva's order amounts to the destruction of evidence.