Vanessa Bryant is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for a leaked photo of the helicopter crash scene where her husband, Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna were killed.
According to the story reported by CNN’s Stella Chan and picked up by Fox Carolina, the civil lawsuit was filed in a Los Angeles Superior Court for civil rights violations, negligence, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress. Bryant’s lawsuit is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages in the case.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement saying that they could not comment on the pending litigation.
Family members of those who died in the crash were assured by LA County Sheriff’s deputies at the Lost Hills Station that the crash site had been secured. The suit alleges that a leak of a photograph taken from the crash site and leaked to the celebrity news site, TMZ, caused fans to flock to the area.
According to documents filed with the court, “the biggest threat to the sanctity of the victims’ remains proved to be the Sheriff’s department itself,” as eight deputies “pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches. The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification.”
Legal representatives for Bryant said that photos were shared in locations that were not connected to official investigations, including a bar where a bartender overheard a Sheriff’s deputy trainee try to use the photo to impress a female patron at the establishment. The bartender filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department following the incident.
Vanessa Bryant had learned of the leaked photographs through an article appearing in the Los Angeles Times in February. Bryant requested information from the LACSD about its investigation and how it would ensure that all photos taken from the scene were secure.
Legal documents state that a month after her request, Bryant was informed by an attorney for the Sheriff’s Department that they had no legal requirement to respond to her request and would not be doing so.
In March, the LACSD said it put eight deputies on administrative leave, and all non-official photos have been deleted from devices of those deputies. Bryant’s lawsuit alleged an agency-wide cover-up and said that Sheriff Villanueva himself ordered the destruction of evidence.