LOS ANGELES - Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, is suing Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his department after his deputies allegedly took personal photographs on their phones of the bodies of Kobe and Gianna Bryant at the scene of the deadly helicopter crash in Calabasas, according to a lawsuit obtained by FOX 11 Tuesday.
According to the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, "no fewer than 8 sheriff's deputies at the crash site, pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches. The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification."
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The lawsuit goes on to allege that a deputy was at a bar and showed the photos to a woman he was trying to impress. The bartender overheard the conversation, blew the whistle and filed a written complaint with the sheriff's department.
Vanessa says in the lawsuit that afterwards, Sheriff Villanueva tried to cover it all up by going to the sheriff's substation that responded to the crash and telling deputies if they deleted the photos they would not face discipline.
The lawsuit also claims that Vanessa is in constant fear the photos will be leaked. She is seeking unspecified damages, including punitive damages, claiming Sheriff Villanueva and the department caused her severe emotional distress.
The LASD issued a statement Tuesday on the lawsuit that read, "Shortly following this tragic crash, Sheriff Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take and share non-official pictures of this nature. Due to the pending litigation, we are unable to offer further comment."
Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Last Friday, Vanessa filed a lawsuit against a second helicopter company stemming from the fatal crash. In the suit, she alleged the Santa Ana-based firm's owner and founder suggested the route for the ill-fated flight and should have aborted it.
Kobe, 41, and Gianna, 13, were killed the morning of Jan. 26, when the helicopter carrying them and seven others crashed into a mountainside in Calabasas, California, while flying to a girls basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy. Bryant coached Gianna’s team, which was scheduled to play that afternoon. She and two teammates were among the nine people killed.
The other victims were identified as John Altobelli, along with his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, Sarah and Payton Chester, youth basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.