Vanessa Bryant has made public the identities of four Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department deputies accused of taking and sharing photos of the scene where Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others died in a helicopter crash last January.
A week after a judge ruled that the deputies’ names must be released to Bryant for her emotional distress lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department, the Fire Department, and L.A. County, Bryant posted her amended complaint to Instagram Wednesday, highlighting the names of deputies Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell, and Raul Versales.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who had previously claimed he ordered as many as eight deputies to delete the photos from their devices, responded on Twitter, writing, “We will refrain from trying this case in the media and will wait for the appropriate venue. Our hearts go out to all the families affected by this tragedy.”
We will refrain from trying this case in the media and will wait for the appropriate venue. Our hearts go out to all the families affected by this tragedy.
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) March 18, 2021
Villanueva’s story came back to haunt him last week when U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter rejected claims by county attorneys that releasing the deputies’ names would expose them to retribution, ruling that their argument “is totally inconsistent with their position that such photographs no longer exist.”
Additionally, Walter wrote, “Although the Court recognizes that this case has been the subject of public scrutiny and media attention and that the Deputy Defendants are legitimately concerned that they will encounter vitriol and social media attacks, such concerns, by themselves, are not sufficient to outweigh the public’s strong interest in access.”
The scandal resulted in the passing of the “Kobe Bryant Law,” which prohibits first responders from taking photographs of deceased victims at the site of any accident or crime for any reason not directly related to official law enforcement. The statute went into effect on January 1, 2021.
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