Photo: Getty images
  /  08.12.2022

The civil trial over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies who shared disturbing pictures of the helicopter crash site that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, began on Wednesday (Aug. 10).

The crash site victims’ loved ones listened to a lawyer explain in explicit detail how deputies abused their authority. The sheriffs snapped photos of the scene and shared it in a group chat at a bar “for a laugh.” Spectators included Vanessa Bryant, who fired off a lawsuit against the department for invasion of privacy after learning her husband and daughter’s decapitated bodies were stored in people’s cell phones and circulated for entertainment. 

Vanessa’s lawyer, Luis Li, told prosecutors the officers shared the pictures  “while playing video games” and “repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them,” the Associated Press reported. Li said, “Jan. 26th, 2020, was the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life. The county made it much worse. They poured salt in an open wound and rubbed it in.” Li doubled down on his argument with video evidence of an off-duty sheriff deputy drinking at a bar and showing the bartender the picture, who responded by shaking his head. Li added that a group of firefighters were looking at the images two weeks later at an awards banquet. According to an animated chart presented at the hearing, at least 30 unauthorized people saw the pictures

In addition to Kobe and Gigi, seven other victims lost their lives in the crash, including members of the 13-year-old’s basketball team, their relatives, and the pilot. The helicopter they boarded flew through heavy fog and crashed into a mountain in Los Angeles. In Feb. 2021, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled the pilot error caused the fatal incident. 

A few victims’ families filed lawsuits against the sheriff’s department over the shared photos. Chris Chester, who lost his wife Sarah and their 13-year-old daughter, is a part of the trial that began yesterday. Two other families also took legal action, but USA Today reported those victims accepted a $2.5 million settlement last year.

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