Tuesday marked day 5 of the trial between Vanessa Bryant and Los Angeles County.
As you may know, Vanessa filed an invasion-of-privacy trial against the entire county, its fire department, its Sheriff’s department, and eight officers for taking and distributing unauthorized photos of the January 2020 crash site that killed her husband Kobe Bryant, her daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others.
For the first time since the trial kicked off, some officials of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department have publicly expressed regret over their actions, admitting things were taken “too far.”
LA Deputy Expresses Remorse For Photos Of Crash Site
The fifth day of the trial kickstarted with L.A Deputy Joey Cruz taking the stand. He recalled the fateful night of January 28 when he was seen sharing photos of the crash site while at the Baja California Bar and Grill
As you might know, surveillance footage showed Cruz talking to bartender Victor Gutierrez — who testified on Thursday to seeing photos of body parts — and showing him a series of photos from the crash for almost a minute.
Looking back at the moment, Cruz explained that he visited the Mexican ban to de-stress after a couple of overwhelming work days and while there began venting to his good pal, Gutierrez.
Cruz, a young trainer, and Gutierrez were seen sharing a laugh after the graphic images were displayed, but during the bartender’s deposition, he claimed that they weren’t guffawing over the gruesome images.
“We never laughed about the photos, I’m 100% sure of that – what type of human beings would we be. Maybe he was showing a funny video,” Gutierrez told the court.
While Cruz didn’t go in on the details of what went down between him and Gutierrez, he acknowledged that he behaved wrongly and went “too far.” The Sheriff’s Department has shared a similar sentiment describing Cruz’s actions as a “lapse” in judgment.
“I would do everything differently about the photos,” a somber Cruz declared in court. He also confessed to trying to show his niece the graphic crash site photos a day before his visit to the bar but she “wasn’t interested” in viewing them.
Cruz claimed that going to the bar and sharing the pictures was an act of de-stressing common among law enforcement officers. “We handle stress differently,” he said of his fellow LASD officials.
Photos Were Shared During ‘Call Of Duty’ Group Game
Michael Russell, another L.A. Sheriff’s deputy, took the stand after Cruz. Russell was one of the officials with whom Cruz shared the crash photos. Russell during his testimony admitted to sharing the photos he received as a way to “alleviate a lot of stress.”
He recalled distributing the images to a group of friends which included fellow LASD Deputy Ben Sanchez a day after he received them. Russell texted his pals and they all logged online to play “Call Of Duty” when he reached out to Sanchez, warning him about the gravity of the photos before sending them to him.
Sanchez acknowledged his culpability in the unlawful distribution of the photos, saying, “I had no business doing that.” He, however, reiterated Cruz’s sentiment of sharing information about their job was a way to unwind and let go of stress.
In a 2021 deposition, Sanchez opened up about receiving the images from Cruz, saying he wasn’t “mentally prepared” and aware how horrid it would be. “I wasn’t expecting dismembered bodies,” he said at the time.
Russell and Cruz’s apologetic testimonies come two days after Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Doug Johnson declared he had no regret about the way he handled the photos after another official revealed he took “over 100 photos” of the helicopter crash site.
As The Blast reported, on day 2 of the ongoing trial, LASD Malibu search and rescue lead David Katz during his deposition confessed that when he arrived at the crash scene, Johnson informed him he had already taken over a hundred photos at the command of an unnamed person who was at a nearby command post.
Katz also gave gruesome details about the state of the remains of the late basketball legend, saying, “[There were] body parts, spread limbs, pieces of flesh hanging from trees, bushes… that were mixed with various helicopter parts. And blood in various places.”