Vanessa Bryant’s legal team released a statement Sunday saying that the wife of late NBA legend Kobe Bryant is “absolutely devastated” by the Los Angeles Times report published Friday that revealed deputies in the Los Angeles sheriff’s department may have shared graphic photos of human remains from the site of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash.
Bryant, 41, was one of nine victims in the crash, including the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
The statement, released by attorney Gary C. Robb and posted on Vanessa Bryant’s Instagram account, said Bryant visited the sheriff’s office the day of the crash to request the area be a no-fly zone and that the crash site be protected from photographers.
“This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families,” the statement said. “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.”
On the day of the crash, Villanueva told reporters his office had set up a perimeter around the crash site and were patrolling the area on horseback. But according to the LA Times, the photos were seen on smartphones and shown to others, although it is not known whether the images were taken by a first responder or someone else.
“First responders should be trustworthy. It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LACOFD would allegedly breach their duty,” the statement said. “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 sheriff’s department was “looking into the situation,” spokeswoman Deputy Grace Medrano said Friday.
“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,” the statement said.
Bryant has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company operator, Island Express Helicopters. Robb is the author of “Helicopter Crash Litigation,” and his practice’s website boasts he has an “unsurpassed record of success in aviation law,” including the two highest-paid settlements in jury verdicts for helicopter crash trials.
In addition to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, the other seven victims were: Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50.
Contributing: Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY