Vanessa Bryant Sues Villanueva, LASD Over Leaked Kobe Crash Photos

A mourner places flowers at a mural of former Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant in Northridge.

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant who was killed in a helicopter crash in January, sued LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his department over photos of the crash site taken by deputies, ABC7 reported. 

Kobe was one of nine people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who perished when their helicopter crashed into a Calabasas hillside amid cloudy skies on their way to a youth basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks. Deputies who responded to the scene took graphic photos of the crash on their cellphones. ABC7 reported that, although the sheriff’s department does have a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos and Villanueva told deputies to delete them, some were eventually leaked. 

Bryant personally went to the sheriff’s office on the day of the crash to ask that the area be protected from photographers, according to her attorney, Gary Robb. 

Bryant is now seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, alleging that the sheriff’s actions were a “cover-up” of misconduct, according to ABC7. 

The lawsuit states that Bryant was “living in fear” that she or her loved ones would encounter the photos online and “feels ill at the thought of” strangers “gawking” at the photos. 

One month after the crash, Bryant also submitted a wrongful death claim that named the estate of pilot Ara Zobayan, who was flying the helicopter at the time of the crash, as defendant, claiming that Zobayan failed to properly assess weather conditions before takeoff, ABC7 reported previously.

As of Sept. 18, California Governor Gavin Newsom was still considering AB 2655, a bill that was overwhelmingly passed in both the California Assembly and California Senate that would make it a misdemeanor for a first responder to take unauthorized photos of crime scenes and would have penalties of fines up to $1,000 per offense.