*Vanessa Bryant has released the names of the four Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies who allegedly shared graphic images of the helicopter crash site where her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianni and seven others died last year.
According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter ruled earlier this month that Vanessa can obtain the deputies’ names and add them to her lawsuit against the sheriff’s department and county. The L.A. County lawyers pushed to keep the names sealed to protect the deputies from online threats and harassment. The names were released Wednesday as part of Vanessa’s amended lawsuit.
Bryant shared several pages of the federal lawsuit in a series of Instagram posts. She filed her lawsuit in September 2020, against LA County, the LA County Fire Department, the sheriff’s department and now her amendment includes the deputies whose names were initially redacted when she initially filed the lawsuit. Following Judge Walter’s ruling that the names could be made public, Kobe’s widow wasted no time putting them on blast on social media: Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales.
“According to the Sheriff’s Department’s subsequent investigatory report, one deputy in particular took between 25 and 100 photos of the crash scene on his personal cell phone, many of which had no conceivable investigatory purpose and were focused directly on the victims’ remains,” the court documents state.
Here’s more from the New York Post:
One of the deputies, Mejia, is accused of obtaining several images of Kobe and Gianna’s remains and sharing them with at least two people, “without any legitimate governmental purpose.” He also allegedly sent the photos to Cruz and to a female deputy who had no role in the investigation, “for no reason other than morbid gossip.”
Cruz, a trainee deputy at the time, allegedly shared the images of the remains with multiple people, including Russell and several members of the public, the suit states. He is also accused of showing the lurid pics to his niece and to a bartender in Norwalk, Calif., two days after the crash.
Versales, meanwhile, allegedly obtained multiple photos of the Bryants’ remains, stored them on his cellphone and shared them with several others in the department, including Mejia, the filing charges.
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The lawsuit charges that the department, “failed to take basic steps to ensure all copies of the improper photos [were] tracked down and sequestered.”
Vanessa is seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress.