Vanessa Bryant names the four Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies who allegedly took or shared photographs of the January 26, 2020, crash that killed nine victims including her husband Kobe and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Wednesday on Instagram, Vanessa posted screenshots of her amended complaint — filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles —that named deputies Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell, and Raul Versales as the defendants, in addition to Los Angeles County and its sheriff and fire departments.
Per legal documents, Vanessa said she spoke with LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva on the morning of the crash to request that the site be secured for privacy.
However, she claims the “assurance was hollow,” as “sheriff’s deputies who responded to the crash used personal cell phones to take gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches.”
“Photos of the remains quickly spread within the Sheriff’s Department as deputies transmitted them to one another via text message and AirDrop,” the filing read. “Within forty-eight hours, at least ten members of the Sheriff’s Department obtained photos of the victims’ remains on their personal cell phones despite having no legitimate governmental use of the photos.”
According to the paperwork, deputy Mejia allegedly “obtained multiple photographs of Bryants’ remains and stored them on his personal cell phone.”
Mejia allegedly sent the photos to “at least two individuals without any legitimate governmental purpose,” including Cruz, a trainee deputy.
Cruz, who Vanessa said had “no role in investigating the accident or identifying those who perished,” then allegedly texted the photos to Russell, another deputy, after Russell had asked to see them.
Vanessa also alleges Cruz showed the photos to his niece during a visit to his mother’s house and to a restaurant patron and bartender at the Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk, California.
(Last March, a law enforcement source told TMZ that a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department trainee allegedly took pictures at the site and “tried to impress a girl by showing her the photos” days later at a bar. A bartender at the establishment overheard the conversation and filed an online complaint with the Sheriff’s Department.)
After obtaining the photos, Russell allegedly shared them with a sheriff’s deputy from another station not involved in the investigation and also texted the pictures to his friend’s personal cell phone.
Vanessa alleges that Versales obtained multiple photos from the crash site and shared them with Mejia and a detective in the department who “had no reason... to receive them.”
Vanessa is seeking damages, claiming negligence and invasion of privacy.
Earlier this month, Vanessa won her case to disclose the names of the officials allegedly involved. Per court documents, attorneys for the LASD and Los Angeles County wanted to keep the deputies’ names and ranks sealed, arguing that “hackers may attempt to seek out and gain access to the individual deputies’ devices to locate any photographs and publish them.” However, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said in his ruling this is “totally inconsistent with their position that such photographs no longer exist.”
Prior to the ruling, Villanueva confirmed that all photos of the crash that were allegedly in the possession of the deputies have been deleted.