Less than a week after delivering an emotional eulogy in front of 20,000 mourners at Staples Center, Vanessa Bryant expressed new grief over news that authorities allegedly shared gruesome images from the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, 13-year-old daughter and seven other people.
The statement linked the accusations to the Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills station, as well as the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
In a Feb. 27 story, the Los Angeles Times said an individual reported a deputy for “showing grim images” from the crash scene at a bar in Norwalk.
The Sheriff’s Department launched a probe after the article’s publication, but sources said days after the Jan. 26 crash, deputies at the Lost Hills station were told that they would not be disciplined if they came forward and deleted the photos, according to the L.A. Times.
In a statement on Feb. 28, the Sheriff’s Department announced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the alleged sharing of photos, as well as the “effectiveness of existing policies and procedures.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva was “deeply disturbed at the thought of deputies” possibly engaging in “such an insensitive act,” the news release from the agency said.
The statement did not provide any information on who possibly took the images and how widely they might have been disseminated.
A source told KTLA that first responders with the county Fire Department may have taken photos from the scene and shared them. The L.A. County Fire Department has not responded to a request for comment.
Bryant and her lawyer Gary Robb demanded discipline for those responsible, and that their identities be released to ensure that the images don’t circulate any further.
Robb said the day of the crash, Bryant personally went to the Sheriff’s Office in an effort to seek some privacy from the public.
She requested that the Calabasas hillside where the crash happened be designated as a “no-fly zone” and be “protected from photographers,” the attorney said.
“This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families,” Robb said in the statement released Sunday. “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.”
Bryant was grateful to the person who submitted the complaint, Robb said.
“First responders should be trustworthy,” the lawyer said. “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.”
In addition to Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the incident killed John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan.