The response from Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, over leaked helicopter crash photos by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department is precisely what you might expect — she’s “devastated,” and she isn’t taking the “unspeakable violation” lightly. On Sunday, Vanessa’s legal team released a statement on her behalf making it very clear she feels that anyone who would participate in such behavior lacks the integrity expected and required from first responders.
Reports began circulating last week that L.A. County deputies and firefighters had shared graphic photos of the scene of the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe, his and Vanessa’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others. Per the Los Angeles Times, two public safety sources confirmed that first responders on the scene had engaged in both discussing such sensitive topics as the victims’ remains and exchanging photos from the crash site.
In a statement shared on social media, Vanessa’s attorneys underscored that she was extremely upset over the gross violation of trust, saying, “Our client, Vanessa Bryant, is absolutely devastated by allegations that deputies from the Lost Hills Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department publicly disseminated photos from the helicopter crash site.”
They went on to explain that Vanessa personally went to the Sheriff’s office on the day of the crash to request the area be restricted immediately so as to protect it from photographers and other prying eyes. Said her legal team, “This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families.”
At the time, Vanessa and counsel felt confident in Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s reassurances that protective measures would be put into place (and they acknowledge that, to their understanding, he has “worked hard to honor those requests”). Still, the photos were allegedly leak — a fact brought to Vanessa’s attention by an individual who filed an online complaint to expose the unjust behavior and “protect human dignity.”
Understandably, Vanessa is disappointed and shaken by the actions of those who decided to share photos from the helicopter crash site. “First responders should be trustworthy. 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,” she said.
She continued, demanding punitive measures be taken to ensure such a violation of respect and breach of morality doesn’t hurt any other families the way it is currently causing her and the families of the other crash victims’ pain.
“We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated,” Vanessa’s legal team said on her behalf in the statement. “We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents.”
As of right now, the Sheriff’s Department has reportedly already launched an investigation. “Hopefully we’ll hear more, what was going on and how they found out,” Patti Giggans, chair of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, told the Times about the “completely unprofessional” and “very regrettable” behavior. “At this point, we have to trust that the sheriff is going to get to the bottom of it.”