Vanessa Bryant releases names of deputies who shared photos of Kobe helicopter crash

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Basketball player Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa at the official after party for the 2004 World Music Awards, September 15, 2005 at Body English in the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Vanessa Bryant, the widow of NBA star Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash last year, released the names of some of the deputies who allegedly shared photos of her husband’s remains.

Bryant took to Instagram to share the court case filing that alleges eight deputies shared pictures of Kobe’s remains following the fatal helicopter crash, which also killed her daughter, Gianna Bryant.

The court case, filed in the United States District Court, Central District of California, alleges that “one deputy in particular took between 25 and 100 photos of the crash scene on his personal cell phone, many of which had no conceivable investigatory purpose and were focused directly on the victims’ remains.”

The case said that deputies shared the photos with each other via text message and AirDrop, and that at least ten members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department obtained the photos, despite “having no legitimate governmental use for the photos.”

Bryant’s case directly named deputies Rafael Mejia, trainee Joey Cruz, Michael Russell and Raul Versales.

In one incident, the case alleges, Cruz showed the pictures to a bartender at the Baja California Bar and Grill, and the bartender proceeded to describe the photos of the remains to patrons.

Bryant is suing for negligence, violation of the 14th amendment and invasion of privacy.

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously told news media that eight deputies took or shared graphic photos of the scene and he ordered the images deleted. The sheriff said the department has a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos, but it does not apply to accident scenes.

Fans leave condolence message on boards to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, at a memorial set up outside of Staples Center on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

“This lawsuit is about accountability and about preventing this disgraceful behavior from happening to other families in the future who have suffered loss,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement. “The department formally refused Mrs. Bryant’s requests for information saying it was ‘unable to assist’ with any inquiry and had no legal obligation to do so. It’s now for a court to tell the department what its obligations are.”

Kobe Bryant and eight others died Jan. 26, 2020 when the helicopter carrying them crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles, during cloudy weather. They were traveling to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s sports facility in Thousand Oaks.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76. helicopter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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