The husband and children of Christina Mauser, a victim of the January 26 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people, are suing the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department over photos that were taken at the scene of the horrific crash.
In a lawsuit filed in L.A. on Wednesday, Christina Mauser’s husband, Matthew Mauser, accuses the department of invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and more, claiming that Sheriff Alex Villanueva falsely assured crash victim families that the site had been secured, while in reality “no fewer than eight” sheriff’s deputies were able to take “gratuitous” photos of the deceased victims.
The lawsuit reads: “The gratuitous images soon became talked about within the department, as deputies displayed them to colleagues in settings that had nothing to do with investigating the accident…One deputy even used his photos of the victims to try to impress a woman at a bar, bragging about how he had been at the crash site.”
Vanessa Bryant, widow of Kobe Bryant, filed a similar suit in May, alleging that deputies had taken photos for their own gratification. The allegations even inspired new legislation. In September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed what’s been called the “Kobe Bryant Law,” a new ban on first responders taking photos of deceased victims at the site of any crime or accident for purposes other than those directly relating to law enforcement.
When the law goes into effect in January, any officers, paramedics, or others on the scene who take photos or videos for their own purposes can be charged with a misdemeanor and slapped with a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.
Christina Mauser, 38, was a coach on the Mamba Sports Academy’s girls’ basketball team. She and the helicopter’s other passengers were traveling from Orange County to a basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks when the aircraft encountered fog and flew into a hillside.
In a statement emailed to NY Daily News, the sheriff’s department said it couldn’t address the accusations in the Mauser lawsuit: “Our hearts go out to all of the victims of this tragic crash and their families. Due to pending litigation we are unable to discuss the matter.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.