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Vanessa Bryant wins her case to get names of those who took photos of Kobe Bryant’s crash site

A judge ruled for Vanessa Bryant to receive the names of the officers who allegedly shared Kobe Bryant’s crash photos

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Vanessa Bryant speaks during a celebration of life for her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna in Los Angeles.

Vanessa Bryant speaks during a celebration of life for her husband, Kobe Bryant, and daughter Gianna on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. A judge ruled for Vanessa Bryant to receive the names of the officers who allegedly shared photos from the January 2020 helicopter crash.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

A judge ruled Monday that Vanessa Bryant will receive the names of the four Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies who reportedly took and shared graphic photos of the helicopter crash that Bryant’s husband and daughter, CNN reports.

  • Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, died in a tragic helicopter crash in January 2020.

What happened

Attorneys with the sheriff’s department wanted to keep the names quiet because “hackers may attempt to seek out and gain access to the individual deputies’ devices to locate any photographs and publish them,” court documents said, according to CNN.

But U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said Monday that argument is “totally inconsistent with their position that such photographs no longer exist.”

Vanessa Bryant called on the sheriff’s department to release the name of the deputies in an Instagram post in February, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Context

In February 2020, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told The Los Angeles Times it started an investigation into public law enforcement officials sharing graphic images of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash with people who weren’t involved in the investigation.

An unnamed source told The Los Angeles Times back then that “the sharing of photos of the crash scene and the victims’ remains was the topic of a discussion among first responders two days after the crash. The source said he saw one of the photos on the phone of another official, in a setting that had nothing to do with the investigation of the crash. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.”

The Los Angeles Times reported there was a suspicion the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department performed a massive cover-up over the scandal.

Then, in September 2020, Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County sheriff, claiming deputies shared graphic photos of the tragic helicopter crash, according to The Guardian.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva told NBC News at the time that the department does not have a specific policy about personnel photographing a gruesome scene with their personal phones.

  • “I am devastated and heartbroken by the conduct of those first responders who had the responsibility to protect the dignity and privacy of the victims who perished in the tragic helicopter crash,” Villanueva said at the time.
  • “That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva previously told NBC News. “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.”

So what’s next?

It’s unclear what Vanessa Bryant will do with the names. However, it appears she does want them held accountable for their actions, CNN reports.