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DMV Revises Policy After San Bernardino Mass Shooting, Will No Longer Release Photos of Deceased Persons to Media

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People pray at a makeshift memorial for the victims of a mass shooting near the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Dec. 4, 2015. (Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday confirmed that, in the aftermath of the Dec. 2 terror attack in San Bernardino that left 14 victims dead, the agency has stopped its longtime practice of releasing photographs of deceased persons to media outlets.

A DMV spokesman elaborated on the policy change in a statement emailed to KTLA. The decision was partially based on two sections of the California Vehicle Code, wrote Jaime Garza of the agency’s office of public affairs.

Section 12800.5, subdivision (a)(2), states that “the department shall not, unless requested by the licensee, distribute or sell the licensee’s picture or photograph or any other information pertaining to the licensee’s physical characteristics,” Garza noted.

The spokesman also cited section 1808.5, which states that “all records of the department relating to the physical or mental condition of any person … are confidential and not open to public inspection.”

“A photograph is information related to the physical condition of a person,” Garza wrote.

“The DMV is also concerned for family members who must cope with the loss of someone they love and wants to respect their privacy,” he added.

The 14 victims killed in the mass shooting at San Bernardino’s Inland Regional Center were identified by sheriff’s officials on Dec. 3, the day after they were gunned down by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple who lived in Redlands. The shooters were later killed in a gun battle with police that followed a pursuit near the sprawling social-services facility.

With the DMV declining to release photos of the victims, several news organizations turned to family members and friends of the deceased to provide images for memorial profiles.

The DMV will continue to release such information as driver’s-license and vehicle-registration records, according to Garza.

KTLA’s Nidia Becerra contributed to this report.

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