Vanessa Bryant filed a legal claim on Friday related to unauthorized photographs taken by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department that show the aftermath of the January 26 helicopter crash that killed Vanessa's husband, Kobe, their daughter Gianna, and seven others, People Magazine reports.
The claim seeks damages for emotional distress and mental anguish. It comes following the revelation that eight deputies from the department took graphic photos of the victims and shared them with unauthorized sources. Apparently, this happened even after Vanessa spoke with Sheriff Alex Villanueva the morning of the crash to request that it be secured for privacy.
"In reality, however, no fewer than eight sheriff's deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches. As the Department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes," the claim states.
At the time, Villanueva said that only the county coroner's office and investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were allowed to photograph the scene. Villanueva even went so far as to confirm that any photos that weren't from those sources would be "illicit."The filing that came on Friday argued that the pictures deepened Vanessa's emotional distress and claimed that the department had mishandled the conduct of its officers. Vanessa first became aware of the existence of the photos a full month after the crash, when they were reported in some news outlets.
The document continues by saying that the filing is meant to ensure accountability and to make sure that no one else has to go through something similar in the future. It continues by arguing that when families suffer the loss of loved ones, they should expect to be treated respectfully.
"The Deputies in this case betrayed that sacred trust. This claim is intended to hold the Sheriff's Department accountable and to prevent future misconduct," the document states.
Deputies were apparently told that they would face no disciplinary action if they deleted the photos, the filing claims. It also states that Vanessa was distressed to learn that the department had not initiated a formal investigation into the incident until after the Los Angeles Times had published a story on the existence of the photos on February 28.
The filing also claims that the Department only took minimal action to prevent the spread and dissemination of the pictures. In a previous interview, Villanueva said that he first discovered the existence of the photographs when he heard that one of his deputies had shared the images at a bar.