MALIBU—Vanessa Bryant, widow of Kobe Bryant filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for releasing “unauthorized” photos of the crash site where Kobe and eight other people died.
Kobe Bryant, and his daughter Gianna, and several others died in a helicopter crash heading to a basketball tournament on January 26, 2020. The lawsuit is brought forth against 4 deputies of LASD Malibu/Lost Hills station for circulating photos of the crash site and their remains. The lawsuit cites negligence, violation of the 14th amendment, and invasion of privacy.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter ruled in favor of Bryant to have the four LASD deputies names to be released. Those deputies names include: Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russel, and Raul Versales and the judge stated that actions from these individuals ought to be a matter of public information, instead of being hidden from public eye.
Bryant posted a several pages of the transcript on her Instagram page where she highlights information, such as Mejia admitting to investigators he obtained the photos for no other reason than sheer gossip and Versales claiming “I don’t know how iPhones work” to investigators after being questioned why he had the photos.
According to the released transcripts, none of the deputies had any clearance to be at the crash site or to photograph the scene without supervision. Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted the the personnel “had no place to be taking photographs of anything.” He later tweeted: “We Will retain from trying this case in the media and will wait for the appropriate venue. Out hearts go out to all the families affected by this tragedy.”
California passed a state law where first responders cannot take unauthorized photos at the scene of an accident or crime.