Vanessa Bryant files claim over crash-site photos


Vanessa Bryant filed a claim against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, contending deputies shared unauthorized photos of the site where her husband and daughter died in a helicopter crash in January.

The claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, was filed Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported. Retired Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant and the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were killed along with seven others in the Jan. 26 crash.

In the claim, Vanessa Bryant contends that Sheriff Alex Villanueva “personally assured her” that the family’s privacy would be protected as it related to the crash site in Calabasas, Calif. Her husband and daughter were part of a group traveling to a youth basketball tournament via helicopter.

“In reality, however, no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches,” according to the claim, the Times reported. “As the department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes.”

In February, the Times reported that graphic photos of the crash scene were shared by deputies. Villanueva later acknowledged that he ordered the eight people to delete the pictures.

“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.”

Among those who had the photos was a trainee deputy, who reportedly was overheard at a bar discussing the pictures. Villanueva said that led to the sheriff department’s knowledge of the photos’ existence.

“Mrs. Bryant was distressed to learn that the department did not initiate a formal investigation until after the L.A. Times broke the story,” according to the claim.

Her claim alleges that those who took and shared the photo invaded her right to privacy, caused emotional distress and are liable for negligence.

Vanessa Bryant also filed a wrongful death suit in Los Angeles in February, with the owner and operator of the aircraft and the pilot listed as defendants. Ara Zobayan flew the helicopter and perished in the accident.

—Field Level Media