Warning: This story contains descriptions that some readers may find disturbing.
The tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash was the beginning of the hellscape that was 2020. It was one of the last significant occurrences before COVID-19 swept the planet. Many of us can remember scrolling Twitter and not believing it happened because the internet is so fast-moving, you can’t always believe what you read. “It not real unless TMZ posts it” is an actual thing.
This comes with drawbacks, because sensitive pictures and videos of the deceased get shared millions of times. When does morbid curiosity infringe upon the privacy of the dead and those family members who mourn them? Also, why would you even be excited to show pictures of a crash site to other people?
After Bryant’s death, there were reports that first responders on the scene took pictures of the crash site. According to a report in USA Today, this went a step further. LAPD Joey Cruz, as per testimony, went into a Los Angeles bar on January 28th, 2020, and volunteered to show photos of Bryant’s dead body to a bartender:
“Hey, have you heard about Kobe?” asked the officer, Joey Cruz.
“Yeah,” the bartender replied. “It’s sad.”
“Well, I have a few pictures” Cruz told him, according to the testimony of the bartender filed this month in federal court. “Want to see them?”
Surveillance footage from the bar shows Cruz sharing his phone with the bartender, who later testified about what he saw on that phone. Cruz had obtained photos from the crash scene.
“It was body parts,” the bartender said of the photos.
This is the “Hey man, you wanna see a dead body?” saying to the extreme. What would possess you to go to a bar, maybe play a game of pool, order a shot, and then casually offer photos of someone’s body parts? This isn’t a video game; that’s someone’s father, husband, friend, etc. If we can’t trust those deemed to serve and protect us not to peddle things like this as if they were a magic trick, then who can you trust?
It gets even worse because the bartender treated what he saw like a game of telephone:
“He began to describe the photos that were shown to him,” Mendez testified.
The bartender mentioned body parts and Kobe Bryant’s possible remains, Mendez stated in the transcript filed in court Dec. 6. The bartender appeared eager to tell them more, but it was “getting graphic,” Mendez stated. “And so we just said, `We heard enough.’”
Vanessa Bryant has called out the deputies who have shared the photos and is suing Los Angeles County for invasion of privacy and negligence. California Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed a law making it illegal for first responders to take unauthorized photos. Deputy Cruz had this to say as he was questioned in an internal investigation:
“At the time sir, I didn’t think anything of it,” replied Cruz, who was a deputy trainee at the time of the crash. “I didn’t think much of it. Until now, going through this, now I know that it’s not appropriate.”
Have we been so desensitized to death that we don’t think anything of it? Families have to relive loss over and over again. Even the slightest memory can send a wave of grief over them. No one needs to see people passing pictures of their loved ones around like trading cards at their darkest hour.