Monday, 6 Dec 2021

What are the leaked photos of Kobe Bryant at the helicopter crash site?

SINCE Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a tragic helicopter crash in January 2020, the family has been plagued by a photo leak scandal.

The "Black Mamba" and "Mambacita" died alongside seven others, including a pilot, when Kobe's helicopter crashed in the hills above Calabasas.

What are the leaked photos of Kobe Bryant at the helicopter crash site?

On October 23, 2021, it was reported that Vanessa Bryant testified against Los Angeles County in a deposition hearing following a lawsuit she filed.

According to her testimony, she kept the clothes that Kobe and his daughter were wearing at the time of the crash.

She was allegedly also asked about the leaked photos of her husband that were posted to social media.

The 41-year-old NBA legend and his daughter were on their way to the Mamba Academy for basketball practice when their private helicopter went down at 1pm ET.

Kobe's Sikorsky-76 chopper came down in fog in the Calabasas mountains northwest of Los Angeles.

Vanessa Bryant, his wife of 20 years, was reportedly horrified when California cops were accused of showing off horrific photos of the tragedy, which killed nine people.

Vanessa's attorney described the allegations that cops shared the photos of victims' remains in a bar as “an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families".

He called for those who shared the photos to “face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated".

Who released the photos?

A young Californian police officer allegedly leaked photos of the NBA legend's body in a bid to impress a woman at a bar.

Bryant’s lawsuit alleged that within 48 hours of the crash, photos had spread to at least 10 members of the department.

One deputy took between 25 and 100 photos of the crash scene on his cell phone, according to the suit.

There also some disturbing allegations about what those deputies did with the photos of Kobe, Gianna, 13, and the other passengers. 

The second part of the lawsuit she shared included allegations that officer Joey Cruz, showed crash photographs to a bartender at the Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk, California.

One of the customers described his alleged actions as "very, very disturbing."

Cruz is also accused of showing the photos to his niece.

He also allegedly made "a crude remark about the state of the victims' remains."

The suit alleges that on the day of the crash Mejia, who was assigned to the crash site, obtained photos from fire department personnel.

He then allegedly walked over to chat with a female deputy who wasn't involved in the investigation – and for no reason other than "morbid gossip," sent them to her cellphone.

Mejia is accused of passing the photos to Cruz, a trainee deputy at the time in the suit.

Another officer, deputy Michael Russell, allegedly sent photos to a friend with whom he "plays video games nightly." 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies linked to the leak were told they would not get in trouble if they deleted the pictures, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Were the photos deleted?

Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted he ordered officers to delete the images to stop them from spreading further.

But he was accused of a cover-up as the LA Times reported the USA's largest sheriff's office tried to keep a lid on the scandal for five weeks.

He told NBC4 he asked officers to delete them to stop them from reaching the public domain.

Villanueva said: “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them.

“And, we’re content that those involved did that.”

He added: “Had we done the original, usual routine, which was relieve everybody of duty and everybody lawyers up and all that, that would increase the odds ten-fold that those photos would have somehow made their way into the public domain.

“And that’s definitely what we do not want.”

Patti Giggans, chair of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, said the destruction of photos “looks like a cover-up of misconduct.”

What lawsuits has Vanessa Bryant filed over crash?

The late NBA star's wife sued Island Express in February 2020, blaming the company for the helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter a month earlier.

The suit alleged that the weather conditions and fog in the area on the day of the crash were not safe for flying and that pilot, Ara George Zobayan, failed to properly assess the conditions before takeoff.

Bryant also has another ongoing suit against the LA County Sheriff's Department over photos deputies snapped and shared of the horrific crash site.

The basketball star's widow, 39, has alleged members of the LASD shared multiple gruesome and unauthorized images of the crash scene.

She has posted photos of court documents that included the names of the deputies charged.

On October 16 TMZ reported that Vanessa Bryant might be asked by Los Angeles County to undergo a psychiatric exam to prove her distress over the leaked photos.

TMZ reported that County attorneys may want her to undergo psychiatric evaluation to prove that the emotional anguish and distress she claims in her lawsuit is in relation to the leaked photos and not the deaths of her loved ones.

According to court documents obtained by USA TODAY, the County's filings allegedly say, "Despite putting their mental condition front and center in this case, Plaintiffs refuse to submit to independent medical examinations (IMEs)."

"The County brings this motion to compel IMEs of the Plaintiffs, which are necessary to evaluate the existence, extent and nature of Plaintiffs’ alleged emotional injuries. Plaintiffs cannot claim that they are suffering from ongoing depression, anxiety and severe emotional distress and then balk at having to support their claims."

According to TMZ, Vannesa Bryan't legal team responded to the filing stating that it was nothing more than a "scorched earth" approach.

No conclusive ruling has been made at this time.

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