Vanessa Bryant IDs cops accused of sharing photos of Kobe, Gianna crash
In her own photos, Bryant named names: Deputies Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales.
Vanessa Bryant shared documents from the lawsuit she filed against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just days after a judge ruled in her favor.
Bryant sued the department after four deputies shared photos of the grim scene in Calabasas where her NBA-icon husband and 13-year-old daughter, as well as seven others, died in a helicopter crash last January.
She shared the legal documents on her Instagram in individual postings with no captions and drew a circle around the names of the defendants. Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales are the deputies named.
In the lawsuit, it is alleged that Versales obtained photographs of the crime scene and shared them with members of the department, specifically Mejia. The suit then alleges Mejia shared the photos with two other people.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the Sheriff’s Department released a memo saying that Mejia told his superiors he obtained access to the photos and forwarded them in order “to answer some questions regarding the color, numbers and identifying features of the aircraft, as well as crash scene details.”
He later admitted to investigators that he did not have a reason to forward the photos.
In Bryant’s lawsuit, it notes that Mejia said “Curiousity got the best of us.”
The suit further details that another deputy, Joey Cruz, sent the photos to a niece. He also talked about the crash in public at a restaurant, where he showed the images to a bartender.
The bartender then described the images to a group sitting nearby, and a person apparently disturbed by what they heard complained to the Sheriff’s Department. That sparked the investigation after The Times obtained a copy of the complaint.
Another officer reportedly saved the photos to his phone and shared them with friends.
Bryant’s lawsuit alleges that between 25 and 100 photos were spread through text and phone sharing within two days of the crash.
Bryant’s husband and daughter — Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant — died after dense morning fog impacted their helicopter pilot’s visibility on Jan. 26, 2020 while enroute from Orange County to Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball game. The two Bryants, pilot Ara Zobayan and six others on board were killed instantly.