Why Vanessa Bryant Is Suing LA Sheriff After Kobe and Gianna's Deaths

Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The two died in a helicopter crash with seven other people, and Bryant's wife, Vanessa Bryant, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County sheriff in September 2020. Bryant is claiming the deputies shared unauthorized photos of the crash, which happened outside the Los Angeles area.

"This lawsuit is about accountability and about preventing this disgraceful behavior from happening to other families in the future who have suffered loss," Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement, as reported by the Associated Press. "The department formally refused Mrs. Bryant’s requests for information saying it was ‘unable to assist’ with any inquiry and had no legal obligation to do so. It’s now for a court to tell the department what its obligations are."

The lawsuit seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Kobe, Gianna and the seven other victims were traveling to a youth basketball tournament and his sports facility. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, there was no mechanical failure in the helicopter. Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters eight deputies took or shared photos of the crash scene and order the images be deleted.

“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva told NBC News at the time. “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And we’re content that those involved did that.” The sheriff's department also released a statement, stating they will investigate the situation.

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"The sheriff is deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act," a statement from the department said. "A thorough investigation will be conducted by the department, with the number one priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families."

While Villanueva ordered the deputies to delete the photo, the lawsuit claims the photos could still exist. It stated: "Ms. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child, and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online."