Sheriff’s deputies are entrusted to protect and serve our communities, but it would appear that an undisclosed number of them have violated that trust, according to a statement released by Vanessa Bryant and her attorney, Gary C. Robb.
In response to reports that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies leaked graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, 13-year-old Gianna “Gigi” Bryant and seven others, Vanessa aired out those responsible in a scathing letter written by Robb that she posted on Instagram.
“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,” the statement said. “First responders should be trustworthy. It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LACOFD would allegedly breach their duty.”
The letter continued, “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.”
Bryant and Robb are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation into these alleged incidents.
On Friday, the Los Angeles Times broke the news that first responders at the scene of the crash had been sharing photos outside of official business, with TMZ reporting that this included a deputy trainee sharing photos at a bar in order to “impress a girl.” A bartender allegedly overhead this conversation and filed an online complaint with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in disgust. And in attempt to keep this matter under wraps, the Sheriff’s Department then ordered deputies to delete any pictures from the crash.
“Every police department struggles with the same thing, where people take photos and they’re not evidence,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva told the Times. “So that’s a practice we have to make sure that everyone walks away, and there is no evidence other than the official photos of evidence that are taken for criminal purposes.”
In the statement, Robb further revealed that the mother of four visited the sheriff’s office immediately following the crash on Jan. 26 and requested that the area be guarded from photographers and designated as a “no-fly zone.”
In its own statement issued on Friday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that Villanueva was “deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act” and announced that “a thorough investigation will be conducted by the department, with the No. 1 priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families.”