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Vanessa Bryant sues Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, alleging cover-up of crash scene photos

Vanessa Bryant sues Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, alleging cover-up of crash scene photos
Posted at 12:00 PM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 14:08:51-04

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, alleging the department attempted to cover-up up the fact that deputies took photos with their personal cell phones at the scene of a helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter.

Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed on Jan. 26 when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California, as the group was traveling to a youth basketball game. The helicopter reportedly crashed into mountains amid dense fog.

In her lawsuit, Bryant alleges that eight deputies took "gratuitous images" with their cell phones after responding to the scene.

Bryant's suit also alleges that one of those deputies showed images from the scene to someone outside the department. According to Yahoo, that deputy showed photos from the scene to a person at a bar and bragged "about how he had been at the crash site." A bartender who overheard the conversation later notified the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department about the conversation.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has already admitted that eight deputies took photos of the crash with their cell phones. According to an investigation from The Los Angeles Times, Villanueva allegedly told eight deputies who took photos from the scene that they would not face discipline if they deleted the crash photos from their phone — a move that some legal experts say amounts to the destruction of evidence.

After The Times released its report, Villanueva asked the California Office of Inspector General to investigate the situation.

However, Bryant's lawsuit alleges that Villanueva did not inform the crash victims' families that improper photographs had been taken. The suit also claims that Villanueva did not initiate an investigation or "inspect the deputies phones to determine whether and how the photos had been shared."

According to The Times, Bryant is seeking damages for "negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of her right to privacy."

Bryant and the families of other victims in the helicopter crash have also filed a lawsuit against the pilot and his employer, Island Express Helicopters. That suit is still pending.