UPDATE 3/2, 11:35 p.m. ET: On Monday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva revealed that he ordered eight deputies to delete photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant, as well as seven others.
“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,” Villanueva said, per NBC News. 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. And, to think any member of our department would be involved in that."
Shortly after the news was reported, Vanessa Bryant released a statement via her lawyer saying she was "absolutely devastated" to learn that people from the L.A. Sheriff's Dept. shared graphic pictures of the crash that took the lives of her daughter and husband.
See original story below.
It’s uncertain who took the pictures, but first responders were talking about it two days after the crash, according to the Los Angeles Times. At least one LA County Sheriff’s official had saved the photos in his cell phone and was showing them “in a setting that had nothing to do with the investigation,” according to the Times report. The report doesn’t reveal how many deputies and officials saw or shared the photos.
The Sheriff’s Dept. spoke to the victims’ families on Wednesday regarding a media inquiry over the allegation. The department told the outlet, “The matter is being looked into.”
According to TMZ, the Sheriff’s Dept. has known about the allegations for three weeks. The photos were reportedly circulated around by members of the L.A. County Fire Dept., and now that department is investigating as well.
Sources told TMZ that multiple deputies who were at the crash scene took gruesome photos. One of the deputies—a trainee—showed the photos to a woman at a bar. According to an insider, “He tried to impress a girl by showing her the photos.” The bartender purportedly overhead the conversation and lodged an online complaint with the Sheriff’s Dept. The photos also made their way around the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, the unit that responded first to the crash. Sources say other substation deputies also took pictures on their cell phones.
The Bryant family celebrated Kobe and Gianna's lives at the Staples Center on Monday, where 20,000 people were in attendance. The service was also broadcasted on multiple networks.