Vanessa Bryant Sues Four Sheriff's Deputies Accused of Leaking Kobe Bryant Crash Photos

Vanessa Bryant is taking legal action against four L.A. County sheriff's deputies, who allegedly leaked photos of the helicopter crash site where Gianna, Kobe Bryant and others perished.

By Cydney Contreras Mar 18, 2021 12:00 PMTags
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Vanessa Bryant has revealed the identities of the four Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies who allegedly shared unauthorized photos of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Gianna and Kobe Bryant, as well as several others.

On Wednesday, March 17, Vanessa posted numerous court documents to her personal Instagram account, singling out Joey CruzRafael MejiaMichael Russell and Raul Versales.

The court documents are an additional amendment to her civil lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and his department, which she filed last September.

In the amendment, which was also obtained by E! News, Vanessa accuses the defendants of negligence, invasion of privacy and violating the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution.

She's requested they face trial by jury.

E! News reached out to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, as well as the individuals named in the lawsuit, for comment.

According to the documents, Deputy Mejia was one of the many officers who responded to the crash site on Jan. 26. 2020. While at the makeshift command post, Mejia allegedly took photos of the scene on his personal cell phone and sent them to the personal cell phones of two deputies, one of which was Cruz.

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During the course of the investigation, the lawsuit states Mejia admitted to investigators that he took and shared the photos without any legitimate governmental purpose, explaining "that 'curiosity got the best of [them]' and that such curiosity was 'in [their] nature' as deputies."

Likewise, the documents allege Cruz, a trainee who stood guard at the crash site, shared the unauthorized photos with several members of the public, including his niece. The documents state, "Before displaying the photos, Cruz made a crude remark about the state of the victims' remains."

John Salangsang/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Additionally, Cruz is said to have "boasted" about guarding the crash site to patrons of a Norwalk bar, before showing the graphic images to those around him, according to the documents.

A member of the public who was present later emailed a complaint to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, as previously reported by The Los Angeles Times. The documents outline how when Cruz learned of the complaint, he and numerous other sheriff deputies were instructed by Villanueva to delete the images and they would face no formal repercussions. 

Deputy Russell was allegedly one of those individuals, having requested Cruz send him the photos taken at the crash site. Two days later, the documents state that Russell texted the photos to a "personal friend with whom Russell plays video games nightly."

Deputy Versales is also accused of sending the photos to multiple sheriff personnel, in addition to showing them to his wife. 

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The documents state that during the investigation all four of the deputies acknowledged having "negligently and/or willfully destroyed evidence" of the photos, which served no "legitimate governmental purpose." 

Additionally, Vanessa's lawyers claim Sheriff Villanueva instructed all deputies to delete the evidence of the photos, in order to "avoid the consequences of misconduct by Department personnel or, at a minimum, in reckless disregard of the risk that destruction of evidence would render a complete investigation impossible."


In doing so, no formal inquiry or internal affairs investigation was launched, nor were officials able to determine how many photos existed.

Additionally, the L.A. County Office of the Inspector General and the victims' families were not informed of the existence of these photos until The Los Angeles Times reported the coverup.

Lastly, Vanessa's legal representation alleges that the deputies and sheriff department officials' efforts "hide the facts strongly suggests that their misconduct was more extensive than they have admitted."


In consequence, the documents explain, "Mrs. Bryant has suffered (and continues to suffer) severe emotional distress from the knowledge that images of her husband's and daughter's remains were taken and shared for the perverse gratification of law enforcement officers, and she fears that she and her family may confront the appalling photos at any moment on the internet."

As a result, Vanessa requests punitive, compensatory and nominal damages, as well as payment of her attorneys. 

In a statement to E! News, Vanessa's attorney Luis Li said, "Mrs. Bryant looks forward to presenting her case in open court."