Vanessa Bryant names officers who allegedly took Kobe, Gianna helicopter crash photos

Ryan Young
·Writer
·2-min read

In an Instagram post Wednesday, Vanessa Bryant named four Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies who allegedly took and shared unauthorized graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe, daughter Gianna and seven others.

Bryant posted images of lawsuit documents she filed against Los Angeles County, the sheriff’s department, the county fire department and the four deputies in question. Those names were initially redacted while a judge determined whether they could be revealed, a decision that went in her favor earlier this month.

The screenshots included the names of the four deputies and some disturbing allegations about what those deputies did with the photos of the crash victims.

Vanessa Laine Bryant speaks during a public memorial for her late husband, NBA great Kobe Bryant, her daughter Gianna and seven others killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Vanessa Laine Bryant speaks during a public memorial for her late husband, NBA great Kobe Bryant, her daughter Gianna and seven others killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Vanessa Bryant names officers in lawsuit

Bryant shared several photos of the lawsuit to her Instagram, including the front page of the lawsuit that listed the defendant names in full.

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A second part of the lawsuit she shared included allegations that one deputy, officer Joey Cruz, showed photos of the accident to a bartender.

Cruz allegedly "boasted" to a bartender at the Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk, California, two days after the crash photos that he had responded to the crash and allegedly showed photos of the accident that he took. The bartender then reportedly approached another table of guests at the restaurant and explained what had happened, something one of the customers described as “very, very disturbing.”

That customer filed an official complaint with the Sheriff’s department while sitting in his car after leaving the restaurant, as it “did not sit well with [him] at all.”

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Cruz is also accused of showing the photos to his niece — he allegedly made "a crude remark about the state of the victims' remains" before doing so — and to another bar patron, something he is seen zooming in on in security camera footage at the bar. Another officer, Deputy Michael Russell, allegedly sent photos to a friend he "plays video games nightly" with.

Bryant’s lawsuit alleged that within 48 hours of the crash, photos had spread to at least 10 members of the department. It also claims that one deputy in particular had taken between 25 and 100 photos of the crash scene on his personal cell phone.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva, according to the lawsuit, allegedly called those deputies who had taken the photos into his office, and said that if they deleted the photos that they would not face discipline. He also reportedly didn’t tell internal affairs about the breach of privacy, and no investigation was started until news of the photos was made public.

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