This week, the Los Angeles Times broke a story sharing that first responders for the fatal helicopter crash that killed NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, and his daughter, Gianna, along with seven other passengers, not only took personal pictures of the debris from the accident, but also of the victims’ remains. It was also alleged that those same first responders shared the photos with other people.
The widow of Bryant, Vanessa, was devastated upon hearing of the news and released a statement with her attorney condemning the actions of the first responders who violated the privacy and sensitivity of the situation. They also promised that they’d be taking legal action against those who ‘breached their duties’.
The Sheriff of Los Angeles County, Alex Villanueva, vowed to work with Bryant to ensure that not only would privacy be granted for the wreckage and the victims, but also that his department would be conducting an internal investigation to determine which deputies were involved in taking personal pictures while on the scene.
After the investigation was completed, the sheriff determined that at least eight of his deputies had been involved. Villanueva recently released a statement on the findings, citing that he was ‘shocked’ and ‘betrayed’ that his deputies would commit an egregious and massive violation of their duties within the investigation.
— FOX 5 Atlanta (@FOX5Atlanta) March 3, 2020
“I was horrified,” Villanueva told Fox 11 Los Angeles. “”I just felt betrayed by my own deputies ’cause it’s such a hard thing to do as a first responder, go to a scene of such a horrific accident, talking to the families, three families that were there at the Lost Hills station, personally, and their concerns about privacy, and how we could make the day better for them if any way possible. And to have this happen, It was heartbreaking.”
Villanueva also shared that five of the deputies were full-time employees, while three were reservists. The deputies were immediately ordered to delete the photos to prevent any further dissemination or propagation. It’s currently unknown who has actually seen the images or has access to them at this time.
— William (@He3Man7) March 3, 2020
In the statement issued by Bryant’s attorney, Gary C. Robb, he called the actions by the first responders ‘inexcusable and deplorable’. “This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families,” Robb’s statement read.
“At that time, Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured us all measures would be put in place to protect the families’ privacy, and it is our understanding that he has worked hard to honor those requests. He demanded that the deputies be identified “to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated,” the statement continued.
That is beyond words inexcusable! File a lawsuit against the individuals and the dept for going outside the scope of their duty malicious behavior and emotional trauma to the families. #VanessaBryant #sodisgusted https://t.co/MUQcEbwd5Z
— mzM (@mzmoniak) March 3, 2020
Villanueva went on to condemn the incident while also explaining the difficulties and struggles of preventing it from happening. The L.A. County Sheriff also said that it’s their goal to only have official photos taken for criminal investigative purposes, but that it’s difficult to enforce.
“Every police department struggles with the same thing, where people take photos and they’re not evidence,” he said according to the Los Angeles Times. “So that’s a practice we have to make sure that everyone walks away, and there is no evidence other than the official photos of evidence that are taken for criminal purposes.”
— Xochitl (@laxochdehp) March 3, 2020