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Vanessa Bryant says she lives ‘in fear’ that Kobe Bryant crash photos will go viral

Vanessa Bryant says in a recent filing that she fears graphic images of the bodies of her husband and daughter will never disappear from the Internet. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Vanessa Bryant fears that graphic images of the bodies of Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant taken at the scene of the helicopter crash in which they died will follow her and her other three daughters, saying in a court filing that she has been “taunted online by people threatening to leak the photos or posting fake images of my husband’s dead body.”

Bryant is suing Los Angeles County for invasion of privacy and has accused sheriff’s deputies and firefighters of taking and sharing photos of human remains from the scene of the Jan. 26, 2020, crash in which Kobe Bryant, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter and five other people lost their lives. Her comments came in a six-page district court filing Monday that was in response to a motion by the county to have the case dismissed.

“These deputies and firefighters took the worst thing that has ever happened to me — the worst thing that could happen to any mother or spouse — and made it worse,” she stated in the filing. “I will never be able to shake the anguish from knowing that the officials who are supposed to keep us safe treated Kobe and Gianna with such callous disrespect. For the rest of my life, one of two things will happen: either close-up photos of my husband’s and daughter’s bodies will go viral online, or I will continue to live in fear of that happening.”

She went on to say that she has seen one photo that purported to show Kobe Bryant’s remains. “Since viewing the photo, I’ve been tormented with thoughts of who took it and whether it depicts my husband.”

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The filing was the latest development in Bryant’s legal battle with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which began after at least eight sheriff’s deputies took unauthorized photos of the crash scene. They were widely circulated among law enforcement, deputies’ friends and family members and some strangers in the days after the Bryants and others died in the crash into a hillside near Calabasas, Calif. Several sheriff’s deputies and firefighters at the scene “pulled out their cellphones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches” who were en route to the teens’ basketball game, according to Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit, filed in September 2020.

A document also filed Monday on her behalf by attorney Luis Li states that “close-up photos of Gianna and Kobe’s remains were passed around [to] at least 28 LASD devices and by at least a dozen firefighters. And that was only the beginning.” It goes on to allege: “The gratuitous sharing continued in the following days and weeks and included such outrageous conduct as flaunting the photos in a bar while pantomiming dismemberment and showing off the photos over cocktails at an awards gala. One deputy guffawed while sharing the photos; another described the crash victims’ remains as ‘hamburger’ and ‘piles of meat.’ ”

The county argues that the photos were ordered to be deleted and were not posted online or publicly disseminated under the standard required by law in such cases.

On Monday, Bryant’s filing stated: “It infuriates me that the people I trusted to protect the dignity of my husband and daughter abused their positions to obtain souvenirs of their deaths, as though possessing pictures of their remains somehow makes them special. I imagine Kobe watching over what occurred at that crash scene, and I am overcome by anger and emotion.”

Bryant went on to say that she was “sick at the thought that deputies and firefighters have gawked at photos of my husband’s and child’s bodies without any reason. I also feel extreme sadness and anger knowing that photos of my husband’s and daughter’s bodies were laughed about while shown at a bar and awards banquet.”

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