The L.A County Sheriff’s Department says that eight different deputies were ordered to delete graphic photos from the scene of Kobe Bryant’s deadly helicopter crash, and says he ordered the deletion to make sure the photos didn’t make their way to the internet.
The Sheriff, Alex Villanueva spoke to the media in Los Angeles and addressed the situation, saying that eight of his deputies were involved, and NBC News has confirmed two firefighters were also a part of the investigation.
“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva said.
He continued, “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And, we’re content that those involved did that.”
The Sheriff explained that he was made aware earlier this week, that eight officers had either taken, seen, or exchanged the photos, including a trainee of the department assigned to the Lost Hills Station. That specific station responded to the crash scene when it happened.
“We’ve communicated in no uncertain terms that the behavior is inexcusable,” Villanueva said.
He continued, “I mean, people are grieving for the loss of their loved ones. To have that on top of what they’ve already gone through is unconscionable. And, to think any member of our department would be involved in that.”
As for why he ordered the photos deleted, the Sheriff says “had we done the original, usual routine, which was relieve everybody of duty and everybody lawyers up and all that, that would increase the odds 10-fold that those photos would have some how made their way into the public domain. And that’s definitely what we do not want.”
According to reports, the department was made aware of the situation after a bartender reported the situation. The person claimed they were having a conversation in a bar and the deputy mention the photos.
As we reported, Vanessa Bryant is devastated by the fact that any photos were taken and her lawyer issued a statement saying the behavior inexcusable and deplorable for first responders to, “breach their duty.”
“This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families,” he said.
He continued, “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.”
In response to the horrible situation, the Sheriff says he will work on legislation which will make it illegal to take photographs at a graphic scene or make it officially part of the record, even if taken by a personal cell phone.
Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter, after it slammed into a hillside in Los Angeles in extremely foggy weather.