A devastated Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department on Sept. 17. In the legal documents, obtained by HollywoodLife, Vanessa, 28, claims the department caused her “severe emotional distress” by taking and sharing unauthorized photos taken of the Jan. 26 crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant. Vanessa, in documents obtained by HollywoodLife, claimed that “no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies at the crash site pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches.”
She claimed that the photos were taken for the deputies’ “own personal gratification” and that the “gratuitous images soon became talked about within the department, as deputies displayed them to colleagues in settings that had nothing to do with investigating the accident. One deputy even used his photos of the victims to try to impress a woman at the bar, bragging about how he had been at the crash site.”
After a Los Angeles Times report uncovered these unauthorized photographs, Vanessa “privately sought information from the Sheriff’s Department” about whether or not she should “brace for the pictures of her loved ones’ remains to surface on the internet.” The department said, according to Vanessa’s legal documents, that it needed extra time to respond due to the “unusual circumstance” of needing to consult documents, “then sent a letter saying it was ‘unable to assist’ with any of the inquiries and had no legal obligation to do so.” She also has accused the sheriff of an attempted “cover-up,” claiming that Sheriff Alex Villanueva told his deputies that if “they came clean and deleted the photos, they would not face any discipline.” HollywoodLife has reached out to the sheriff’s department for comment.
Vanessa’s lawsuit claims the sheriff’s department’s “outrageous actions” have caused her “severe emotional distress and compounded the trauma of losing Kobe and Gianna.” The widow, in her legal documents, claims she feels “ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child, and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront the horrific images of their loved ones online.” Vanessa’s documents also claim that many people on social media have claimed to have seen these photos.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously told media outlets that eight deputies took or shared graphic photos of the scene and ordered the images deleted. Sheriff Villanueva also said that the department has a policy against taking and sharing pictures of crime scenes, but it doesn’t apply to accidents.
“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Sheriff Villanueva told NBC News in March. “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.”
Vanessa is seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.