A new court filing in Vanessa Bryant’s invasion of privacy lawsuit against Los Angeles County describes Kobe Bryant’s widow as living in constant fear of graphic photos from the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter Gianna going viral. Bryant is suing the county, claiming that she continues to suffer emotional distress after first responders took and privately shared photos from the site of the 2020 helicopter crash site that killed Kobe, Gianna and seven others.
In a filing issued on Monday obtained by the Washington Post, Bryant describes ongoing distress attributed to the knowledge that the photos have been circulated. Her legal team issued the filing in response to a request from the county for the case to be dismissed.
“These deputies and firefighters took the worst thing that has ever happened to me — the worst thing that could happen to any mother or spouse — and made it worse,” Bryant stated in the filing. “I will never be able to shake the anguish from knowing that the officials who are supposed to keep us safe treated Kobe and Gianna with such callous disrespect.
“For the rest of my life, one of two things will happen: either close-up photos of my husband’s and daughter’s bodies will go viral online, or I will continue to live in fear of that happening.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva has acknowledged that members of his department took photos and shared them in personal settings. He said in March 2020 that he was content that eight deputies who took photos had deleted them.
“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva told NBC4. “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.”
The county argues that Bryant is suffering emotional distress because of the death of her husband and daughter, not because of the photos, which it argues have not gone public. Bryant claimed in Monday’s filing that she’s “taunted online by people threatening to leak the photos or posting fake images of my husband’s dead body.”
A separate filing issued by Bryant’s legal team on Monday claims that photos of Kobe’s and Gianna’s remains were shared on “at least 28 LASD devices and by at least a dozen firefighters,” the Post reports.
“The gratuitous sharing continued in the following days and weeks and included such outrageous conduct as flaunting the photos in a bar while pantomiming dismemberment and showing off the photos over cocktails at an awards gala,” the filing alleges. “One deputy guffawed while sharing the photos; another described the crash victims’ remains as `hamburger’ and ‘piles of meat.’ ”
The county has not publicly addressed the filing’s claims beyond its previous arguments that the photos have been deleted and weren’t disseminated publicly.