Days after it was reported that deputies were disseminating gruesome photos from Kobe Bryant’s crash scene, new information is coming to light.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva revealed that eight deputies allegedly took or shared the graphic photos, which were deleted under his command.
On Monday, Villanueva told FOX 11, “They deleted all the pictures they had and they acknowledged if they transmitted them."
"I was horrified. I just felt betrayed by my own deputies 'cause it's such a hard thing to do as a first responder, go to a scene of such a horrific accident, talking to the families, three families that were there at the Lost Hills station, personally, and their concerns about privacy, and how we could make the day better for them if any way possible. And to have this happen, it was heartbreaking," Villanueva admitted.
Villanueva pointed out that the sheriff department has a policy against sharing and taking photos from crime scenes, but no policy for accident scenes.
Villanueva plans to implement a rule against taking unauthorized photos of accident scenes that show dead bodies.
He stressed, "They have no place to be taking any photos of anything. Only in this case would it have been NTSB investigators, coroner investigators, and that's it. Nobody else."
Villanueva noted that the deputies involved are facing an investigation and possible disciplinary action. He did not reveal specifically what type of punishment could be handed to them.
Villanueva also shared his reaction to Kobe's wife Vanessa, who expressed how “devastated” she was to hear about the graphic crash-scene photos. He said, "The reputation of her husband and being well-known, it creates that much more interest. It drives people sometimes to do very stupid things."
Vanessa's lawyer, Gary Robb, said in a statement released Saturday, "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."
Fearing the worst, Vanessa tried to ensure photos would be kept private. The statement asserts, "Mrs. Bryant personally went to the Sheriff’s office on January 26th 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. 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."
Sharing the disgusted reaction by many, Robb went on to underscore the seriousness of the report: "First responders should be trustworthy. It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LAFD would allegedly breach their duty. 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."
Although angered by the reports, Vanessa, via Robb, expressed gratitude "to the individual who filed an online complaint exposing these acts of injustice, and for the choice to protect human dignity."
TMZ reported that multiple L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies took gruesome photos of the scene of the helicopter crash, and that one of the deputies pulled up the photos at a bar several days after the crash "to impress a girl." According to TMZ, the bartender filed an online complaint with the Sheriff's Department after overhearing the conversation.