Vanessa Bryant Testifies: 'As a Mom, All You Want to Do Is Protect Your Babies'
Vanessa Bryant testified Friday in L.A. for nearly three hours as part of her suit against Los Angeles County, in which she alleges photos of the bodies of her late husband Kobe Bryant and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna were improperly taken by authorities in the wake of their deadly chopper crash.
E! Online reports Bryant testified emotionally about how she found out Kobe and Gianna had been in an accident — the family's assistant, Kate, had broken the bad news.
She then said that she had a feeling of helplessness once she discovered that L.A. Sheriff's Department employees and emergency personnel had allegedly taken the images of her loved ones — and seven other victims — after the January 2020 accident, sharing them.
Vanessa expressed that she will "live in fear of being on social media and having these photos pop up." She referred to her reaction as "blindsided, devastated, hurt" and also "betrayed" that photos exist at all.
The anguished mom also said she fears for the impact the photos could have on her surviving kids with Kobe — Natalia, 19, Bianka, 5, and Capri, 3.
"I want to remember my husband and my daughter the way that they were," she testified.
The 40-year-old widow testified under oath that when she went to the Lost Hills Sheriff Station the morning of the crash, she asked Sheriff Alex Villanueva to please secure the area from paparazzi and others.
She remembered imploring, "If you can't bring my babies back, can you please secure the area?"
Days later, it was revealed that first responders had taken and shared photos of the gruesome scene.
"I trusted them not to do these things," Vanessa said on the stand, making the point that first responders photographed Gianna's corpse the day after the crash only because "her daddy wasn't there to protect her — he was at the morgue."
"[I] expected [first responders] to have more compassion and respect," she said. "My husband and my daughter deserve dignity."
Bryant is joined in her suit by Chris Chester, whose wife Sarah and their 13-year-old daughter Payton also perished in the crash. He also said he is undergoing anxiety over the thought that images of his loved ones' mangled bodies exist.
Vanessa testified she brought the suit because she is "willing to go through hell and back to get justice for my husband and my daughter. As a mom, all you want to do is protect your babies."
E! News reports that the L.A. Sheriff's Department said, in a September 22, 2020, statement about the case, "Shortly following this tragic crash, Sheriff Alex Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take or share non-official pictures of this nature. As a result of the swift actions we took under extraordinary circumstances, no pictures made it into the public arena. We continue to offer our heartfelt sympathies for the victims and their families."
In an August 3 trial brief obtained by E! News, Los Angeles County argues Vanessa's lawsuit is without any legal merit.