Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies allegedly leaked graphic photos from the helicopter crash scene that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others. According to the Los Angeles Times and TMZ, the sheriff's department said Thursday that "the matter is being looked into."
At this time, it remains unclear what exactly the images showed, though it is possible that they contained images of the victims' remains as well as the extensive crash site. It is also unclear if the images were taken by deputies or somebody else as well as how widely they were shared.
According to a source, just two days after the Jan. 26 crash, first responders were talking about the crash scene images. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that they saw one of the photos on the phone of another official "in a setting that had nothing to do with the investigation."
Captain Jorge Valdez told the Los Angeles Times that "his office had been obligated to contact the family members of crash victims" about the photos not because of the allegations, but rather the media inquiry. He explained that he was "unaware of any complaint" about the alleged leaked images.
According to ABC7, The LASD and other officials are preparing to make a public statement on the matter, and it has not been revealed if any disciplinary action will be taken.
In the past, Los Angeles-area law enforcement agencies have struggled with keeping confidential information related to high-profile cases private. In 2006, an investigation was launched after documents were leaked following Mel Gibson's drunk driving arrest, and a Los Angeles police officer was fired after they leaked a photo of Rihanna after Chris Brown assaulted her in 2009.
Currently, the National Transportation Safety Board is continuing their investigation into Bryant’s crash, which has officially been ruled an accident. A preliminary report released earlier this month found that there was no evidence of engine failure, something that had previously been suggested. Investigators are looking into poor weather conditions as a possible cause, as the aircraft had encountered dense fog just prior to the crash.
Bryant's wife, Vanessa Bryant, has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company, arguing that the helicopter should have never been permitted to fly on the morning of Jan. 26 due to the weather conditions. It also argues that the aircraft was unsafe, as it lacked a Terrain Awareness and Warning System.