New court filings suggest Kobe Bryant crash photos spread widely among emergency workers

Kobe Bryant's crash photos were shared on at least 28 devices. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - A fire department officer flashed the disturbing photos to a group of people during cocktail hour before a gala.

A sheriff's deputy shared the images with a bartender, who grimaced and made a slashing gesture over his neck. Another deputy, who could not believe how gruesome the pictures were, forwarded them to a colleague while playing online video games with his friends.

Photos of the bodies of the Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others who died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles in January 2020 were shared on at least 28 devices owned by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department personnel and by at least a dozen county firefighters, according to filings submitted by the legal team for Bryant's widow, Vanessa.

The court papers, based on depositions and the forensic investigation of mobile phones, attempt to demonstrate the chain that formed to disseminate the images and how widely they were shared.

Mrs Bryant is suing the county and some of its agencies and employees, claiming to have experienced emotional distress over the sharing of the photos, while the county has denied any wrongdoing and says it worked to keep the photos out of public hands.

"I imagine Kobe watching over what occurred at that crash scene, and I am overcome with anger and emotion," Mrs Bryant wrote in a declaration accompanying the filings.

She added: "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 an awards banquet."

The filings were submitted in response to Los Angeles County's motion in November for summary judgment, requesting the lawsuit be dismissed. A hearing is scheduled for Dec 27.

Mr Louis Miller, the lawyer the county hired for the case, said that the county sympathised with Mrs Bryant's losses, but that it is not at fault.

County emergency workers, he said, "responded to that crash and, at her specific request, set up a no-fly zone, undertook extensive efforts to keep the public and paparazzi away, and made sure none of the investigative photos were ever publicly disseminated".

Mrs Bryant's legal team has disputed the county's statements, saying the sharing of the photos among workers without any discernible investigative purpose amounted to public dissemination.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.