Union seeks to keep private probe into Kobe Bryant crash photos

Investigators work at the scene of the helicopter crash, where former NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died, on January 28, 2020 in Calabasas, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The union representing rank-and-file Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies is seeking a court order sealing the results of an internal probe into the alleged distribution of photos from the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash.

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs brought the petition Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

An LASD representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

Villanueva announced in March that an internal affairs investigation was taking place into the conduct of eight deputies who allegedly took photos at the crash site and shared the images within and, in one instance, outside the department.

ALADS' court papers say Villanueva made two statements in May promising to release the results of the internal investigation, including the following on May 20:

"It's an active investigation, it's near its conclusion. We're going through the final stages and once the information is developed and it's done and all the decisions have been made, we've dotted our 'I's' and crossed our 'T's,' we're going to make the entire investigation public so everybody can read it for themselves. And we'll post it online."

ALADS, as the employee organization recognized by the county to represent deputies in all matters regarding working conditions, is "beneficially interested in the enforcement" of the sheriff's duty to refrain from releasing the confidential personnel information of the peace officers represented by the union, according to the petition.

Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed Jan. 26 when their helicopter crashed into a hillside in foggy weather in Calabasas.

An attorney for Bryant's widow, Vanessa, is asking LASD to give the "harshest possible discipline" to those who distributed the photos, the petition states. She filed a legal claim -- a precursor to a lawsuit -- against the department earlier this month.