Vanessa Bryant, widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, has taken legal action against Los Angeles County and her sheriff’s office over photos shared by first responders in the helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter earlier this year.
The lawsuit, filed last week but obtained by NBC News on Tuesday, accuses county employees of “showing” photos of the remains of Kobe Bryant and 13-year-old Gianna Bryant. The father and daughter died in a helicopter crash Jan. 29 along with seven other people on their way to a basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Where the 13-year-old was supposed to play.
Bryant told the sheriff that the helicopter crash site was not protected from paparazzi and was assured law enforcement would secure the scene, according to the lawsuit.
“But the greatest threat to the sanctity of the remains of the victims turned out to be the sheriff’s department itself,” the lawsuit says. “Faced with an unimaginable scene of loss, as many as eight sheriff’s deputies at the crash site pulled out their personal cellphones and took pictures of the dead children, parents and coaches. Members took these photos for their own enjoyment. “
Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva is also accused of failing to follow protocol and failing to conduct an investigation.
“He did not notify the LA County Office of the Inspector General,” the lawsuit said. “More importantly, he did not alert the families of the victims of the deputies’ fault or the existence of the photos.”
The deputies allegedly shared the photos among themselves and with others without any law enforcement reason, according to the lawsuit. Bryant’s lawsuit alleges that a trainee assistant showed photos to impress a woman at a bar in Norwalk, Calif., And a bartender filed a written complaint with the department about the incident in January.
Instead, Villanueva told MPs that if they come forward and remove the photos, they will not be subject to disciplinary action, according to the lawsuit. The sheriff said in March his “number one priority” was to make sure the photos were removed.
“We have identified the deputies involved,” Villanueva said in March. “They came to the station on their own and admitted that they had taken them away and removed them. And we are happy that the people involved did this. ”
Bryant and his attorneys argue that the sharing of the “free” photos showed “willful disregard” to the widow’s right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment and California law. The lawsuit also accuses the department of negligence for failing to prevent the release of those photos and for failing to punish those responsible, which directly resulted in emotional suffering for Bryant and his family.
“In taking these photos and on several occasions after, the sheriff’s department has chosen to act in a reprehensible manner, and he continues to demonstrate that he does not understand or care about the pain he has caused. », Indicates the complaint. “This lawsuit seeks to impose liability for that.”
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department responded to a request for comment with a brief statement on Tuesday.
“Shortly after this tragic accident, Sheriff Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public security personnel to take and share unofficial photos of this nature,” the statement said. “Due to the ongoing litigation, we are unable to offer further comment. ”