Kobe Bryant's widow Vanessa Bryant is "absolutely devastated" by a report that said Los Angeles authorities shared photos from the scene of the helicopter crash that killed the NBA icon, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven other people in January.
The Los Angeles Times said on Thursday that Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shared graphic pictures of the accident site, a hillside in Calabasas, California. The newspaper quoted a public safety source as saying that he saw one of the images on another official's phone in a setting that had nothing to do with the investigation of the crash. The Sheriff's Department says the matter is under a "thorough" inquiry.
"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," Vanessa's lawyer said in a statement early on Sunday.
The attorney said that Vanessa personally went to the Sheriff's office on the day of the fatal crash and "requested that the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers."
"This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families," the statement said. "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."
The attorney also said Vanessa is "grateful to the individual who filed an online complaint exposing these acts of injustice, and for the choice to protect human dignity."
"First responders should be trustworthy," the statement said. "This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families. 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. We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents."
"The Sheriff's Department is aware of recent media reports alleging deputies shared images from the January 26th, 2020 helicopter crash, which tragically claimed the lives of nine people," the LASD said in a statement on Friday. "The facts surrounding these allegations are currently under investigation, as are the effectiveness of existing policies and procedures."
"The Sheriff is deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act," the statement continued. "A thorough investigation will be conducted by the Department, with the number one priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families."