Vanessa Bryant revealed the names via Instagram on Wednesday night, when she posted pages of her lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the LA County Fire Department, LA County, and four deputies whose names were previously concealed. The suit lists those officers as Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell, and Raul Versales.
The posts came less than two weeks after a judge granted Vanessa Bryant’s request to unseal the names of the aforementioned deputies. The officers are accused of taking photos of the crash that killed Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others in early 2020. According to the legal documents, officer Russell, who was not directly involved with investigation, had obtained the photos and shared them “with a personal friend with whom he played video games with every night.”
Russell allegedly received the photos via text from Cruz, a deputy trainee who responded to the deadly accident.
“At some point during his shift, Cruz obtained multiple photographs of the Bryants’ remains on his personal cell phone,” the lawsuit states. “After obtained photos … Cruz shared them with multiple individuals without any legitimate governmental purpose, including several members of the public.”
Cruz is also accused of showing the photos to his niece as well as a bartender in Norwalk, California.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva allegedly told the involved deputies they would not face disciplinary action as long as they deleted the photos immediately. The lawsuit also states that the sheriff failed to inform internal affairs about the incident, and an investigation wasn’t pursued until after the scandal gained media attention.
“At the moment the deputies snapped photos of Kobe and Gianna’s remains, they created a harm that cannot be undone, and the Department’s response has only exacerbated that harm,” the lawsuit reads.
Vanessa Bryant is seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.