LOS ANGELES: Eight Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies are facing administration action for taking or sharing graphic photos of the Kobe Bryant crash scene, authorities said.
“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,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in interviews with several broadcast outlets on Monday.
“And we’re content that those involved did that.”
Villanueva said his key priority on learning of the deputies’ action “was to make sure those photos no longer exist” or are widely circulated.
“Had we done the original, usual routine, which was relieve everybody of duty and everybody lawyers up and all that, that would increase the odds ten-fold that those photos would have somehow made their way into the public domain,” he told NBC-4.
“And that’s definitely what we do not want.”
Villanueva said he was “shocked” on learning some of his deputies may have taken or shared photos of the crash site and felt betrayed.
Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a Jan 26 helicopter crash in the hills west of Los Angeles.
The only people authorised to take picture of the scene were investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the coroner’s office.
The NBA’s legend’s widow, Vanessa, said through her attorney at the weekend that she was “absolutely devastated” by the reports of deputies having taken pictures of the crash site.
A statement written by Gary Robb, her attorney, and posted on her Instagram page, said she specifically asked sheriff’s officials on the day of the crash to declare the area a no-fly zone to guard against photographers trying to cash in on the accident.
“First responders should be trustworthy,” the statement said.
“This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families,” the statement added.
“We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated. We are requesting an internal affairs investigation of these alleged incidents.”
Villanueva said he was reviewing his department’s policies and trying to push for state officials to adopt legislation that would make it illegal to take photos of crime scenes that show human remains.
He said such a law would help law enforcement agencies get search warrants.
Villanueva also told CNN that he had reached out to the families of those who died in the crash to express his disgust over the action of deputies.
“I personally apologised … on behalf of the poor conduct of our employees and we want to make things right,” Villanueva said.
“We don’t want to extend or increase anybody’s anguish.”