On Wednesday, Vanessa Bryant, widow of the late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, posted sections of a lawsuit she’s filed against LA County on social media. The document revealed the names of the officers who allegedly shared photos of the helicopter crash site where her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died early last year along with six other passengers and the pilot.
Along with the County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department, the defendants in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit are Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell, and Raul Versales.
The lawsuit alleges negligence, invasion of privacy, and violation of the 14th Amendment. According to the lawsuit, Bryant and other family members of the victims reportedly spoke with Sheriff Alex Villanueva and expressed concern that the crash site was unprotected from photographers.
The lawsuit states that Villanueva assured Bryant that the site was being secured by deputies. He later said that Sheriff Department personnel “had no place to be taking photographs of anything.” According to the Sheriff Department’s investigation, deputies took photos of the crash site with their personal cell phones and shared them throughout the department. Many of these photos were images of the victims’ remains.
One of the deputies, Rafael Mejia, admitted to investigators that he shared the photos with others because “curiosity got the best of [them].” The lawsuit adds that the photos were shared and received “without any legitimate governmental purpose.”
Deputy Joey Cruz is said to have shared the photos with patrons at a restaurant and bar later that week. The lawsuit also describes how the other deputies obtained and distributed the graphic photos.