Vanessa Bryant 'devastated' by claims of L.A. deputies sharing photos of Kobe helicopter crash site
"Mrs. Bryant personally went to the Sheriff’s office and requested that the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers," her lawyer said.
Vanessa Bryant‘s legal team is speaking out about the allegations that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies shared photos of the helicopter crash site where Vanessa’s husband Kobe, 41, and their daughter Gianna, 13, along with seven others were killed on Jan. 26.
“Our client, Vanessa Bryant, is absolutely devastated by allegations that deputies from the Lost Hills Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department publicly disseminated photos from the helicopter crash site,” her lawyer, Gary C. Robb, said in a statement on Sunday.
“Mrs. Bryant personally went to the Sheriff’s office on January 26th and requested that the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers,” Robb said. “This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families. At that time, Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured us all measures would be put in place to protect the families’ privacy, and it is our understanding that he has worked hard to honor those requests.”
“First responders should be trustworthy,” Robb added. “It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LAFD would allegedly breach their duty. This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families. We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated. We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents.”
The statement concluded, “Mrs. Bryant is grateful to the individual who filed an online complaint exposing these acts of injustice, and for the choice to protect human dignity.”
Vanessa also shared the statement on her Instagram page.
“The Sheriff’s Department is aware of recent media reports alleging deputies shared images from the January 26th, 2020 helicopter crash, which tragically claimed the lives of nine people. The facts surrounding these allegations are currently under investigation, as are the effectiveness of existing policies and procedures,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office said in a statement. “The Sheriff is deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act. A thorough investigation will be conducted by the Department, with the number one priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families.”
L.A. County sheriff’s deputies shared graphic photos of the helicopter crash, according to the Los Angeles Times, which also reported that the sharing of crash scene photos and the victims’ remains were topics of discussion among first responders two days after the Jan. 26 crash in Calabasas, California.
Patti Giggans, who is the chair of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, called the alleged behavior “completely unprofessional” and “very regrettable” in a statement to the Times on Friday.
Last week, Vanessa, 37, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company that owned the aircraft in the tragic crash.
In a complaint obtained by PEOPLE that lists Vanessa and her daughters as plaintiffs, the mother of four is suing Island Express Helicopters and claims that pilot Ara Zobayan of Huntington Beach, California, who was piloting the flight at the time of the crash and died, “failed to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff,” “failed to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy conditions” and “failed to properly and safely operate the helicopter resulting in a crash.”
The complaint also claims that Island Express Helicopters “knew or should have known” that Zoboyan had been previously cited by the FAA for violating “the visual flight rules minimums by flying into an area of reduced visibility from weather conditions.”
Vanessa and her daughters are seeking general, economic and punitive damages.
In response to the lawsuit, a rep for Island Express Helicopters told PEOPLE, “This was a tragic accident. We will have no comment on the pending litigation.” Lawyers for Island Express Helicopters did not immediately reply to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.