Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is working diligently to rectify what he considers “a sense of betrayal” on behalf of eight deputies withing his department. The involved deputies are facing serious disciplinary actions after they were caught with pictures of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, 41, his daughter Gianna, and six other passengers on Sunday, Jan 26.
Upon learning about the situation, Villanueva came forward last week about his department’s involvement after Bryant’s widow was made aware of the photo leaks.
News regarding circulation of the photos surfaced just three days after Bryant’s public memorial held on February 24, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The LA Times reported the initial allegations.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, 37, was made aware of the photos and made a public statement to which she posted on her Instagram page.
In the statement, Bryant stated she specifically requested the area be marked off as a no-fly zone “to protect the dignity of the victims, and their families” along with their privacy as they grieved.
“At the 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,” wrote Gary Robb, Attorney for the Bryant family.
He continued with expressing their disappointment in the department and shares how the first responders are supposed to be trustworthy.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Villanueva shares in her belief which is why he has requested his department chief liaison monitor the investigation as they uncover more details.
“I am requesting that the Office of the Inspector General immediately assign an investigator to our case for oversight and transparency purposes,” Villanueva said in a letter this week.
He continued, “I believe early monitoring of the LASD investigation will ensure a high quality and comprehensive investigation that will enhance public trust and confidence in both organizations.”
Villanueva’s review request stems from the gray area within the department’s photograph policy regarding pictures from crime and crash scenes being taken and shared by on-duty personnel.
“It is evident our photograph policy is deficient, and this incident has identified a need for me to direct the creation of new policy,” he also wrote.
Although it was not made public immediately, the Sheriff’s Department received a written complaint three days after the crash. TMZ reported, someone came forward after overhearing a conversation about the photos been taken and witnessed them being shown by someone in the department “to impress a girl.”
The complainant was a bartender who reported the incident because they viewed the deputy’s actions insensitive and poor taste.
The images have since been deleted, and the civilian oversight panel will continue to examine their policies on taking photographs of crime and accident scenes.