Kobe Bryant Crash Photo Scandal Involves 8 Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs
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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has confirmed that as many as eight deputies took graphic photos from the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash site.
The lives of basketball legend Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Christina Mauser; Payton and Sarah Chester; John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, as well as the pilot, Ara Zobayan, were lost in a freak accident on January 26 in Calabasas, California.
News of a potential scandal emerged last week after sources alleged officers had been sharing illicit images from the crash site. Now, Villanueva has confirmed eight of his deputies took, saw or shared photos – which he ordered them to delete.
Initially, two ‘public safety sources with knowledge of the events’ told the Los Angeles Times that deputies had been sharing images from the scene, including the victims’ bloody remains – one such officer, a trainee deputy, had been assigned to Lost Hills Station, patrolling the area where the helicopter crashed.
Villanueva told NBC News:
That was my number one priority… to make sure those photos no longer exist, 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.
We’ve communicated in no uncertain terms that the behavior is inexcusable. I mean, people are grieving for the loss of their loved ones. To have that on top of what they’ve already gone through is unconscionable. And, to think any member of our department would be involved in that.
When he heard that his deputies had been sharing the photos, Villanueva told ABC7 he was ‘shocked… a punch to the gut’, adding that it was difficult enough helping the families cope with the tragedy, ‘and then to find out days later this happened, it’s just a sense of betrayal’.
Only two groups of people who would have been at the crash site were authorised to take photos: the county coroner’s office and investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board. ‘That is the only two groups of people. Anybody outside of that would be unauthorized. They’d be illicit photos,’ he added.
However, while it is a breach of department policy to have such photos, it isn’t against the law. Villanueva assured he’d be looking to tighten the policy around the matter – however, he was keen to note that officers taking personal photos at the scene has ‘been a problem ever since they invented the Polaroid’.
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CORRECTED: The department at issue is the Los Angeles County Fire Dept (LACoFD) NOT the LAFD KANSAS CITY, Mo.–(repost: BUSINESS WIRE)–Statement From Gary C. Robb, Legal Counsel on Behalf of His Client, Vanessa Bryant: Our client, Vanessa Bryant, is absolutely devastated by allegations that deputies from the Lost Hills Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department publicly disseminated photos from the helicopter crash site. Mrs. Bryant personally went to the Sheriff’s office on January 26th and requested that the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers. 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. 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. This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families. 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. We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents. Mrs. Bryant is grateful to the individual who filed an online complaint exposing these acts of injustice, and for the choice to protect human dignity. We ask that anyone else who has information as to the facts underlying these alleged grievous and shameful incidents contact our office at 816–474-8080 or email via www.robbrobb.com
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Gary Robb, said she was ‘absolutely devastated’ to learn officers had taken photos from the scene, and added that sharing them would be ‘an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families’.
The officers who took photos are now facing an investigation, however Villanueva didn’t specify any disciplinary measures they may face.
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Topics: News, Gianna Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles
CreditsNBC News and 2 others
Kobe Bryant crash: Sheriff says 8 deputies involved in taking unauthorized photos of scene
Los Angeles Times
L.A. County deputies shared graphic photos of Kobe Bryant crash scene, sources say