Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has confirmed reports that deputies took and/or shared graphic photos of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash site. Villanueva claims that he ordered the photos to be deleted.
“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva told NBC News Monday (Mar. 2). “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.’’
“We’ve communicated in no uncertain terms that the behavior is inexcusable,” Villanueva continued. “I mean, people are grieving for the loss of their loved ones. To have that on top of what they’ve already gone through is unconscionable.’’
Villanueva does mention that although the sheriff’s department has a strict policy against taking and sharing photos from crime scenes, that policy does not apply to accident scenes. He says that he wants a new state law making it illegal to take unauthorized photos of accident scenes where victims’ bodies are present.
On Sunday (Mar. 1), Vanessa Bryant’s lawyer Gary Robb released a statement on her behalf condemning the deputies that shared photos of her husband’s crash site.
“This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families,” the statement continued. “At that time, Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured us all measures would be put in place to protect the families’ privacy, and it is our understanding that he has worked hard to honor those requests.”
Robb said the sharing of photos is “an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families.”
He also called for those who shared the photos to “face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated.”
Villanueva KABC-TV that the deputies who took the photos are facing an investigation and possible disciplinary action. He did not specify what actions they might face. He also says that he has apologized to the families of the victims.