Kobe Bryant’s widow was ‘blindsided’ by leaked photos of crash that killed husband and daughter

US

Vanessa Bryant has told a court that she felt “blindsided” when she learned photos of the crash that killed her husband and daughter had been shared by emergency services.

Basketball star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in January 2020 when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed near Los Angeles.

Ms Bryant is suing Los Angeles County for invasion of privacy over the photos, which were allegedly shared between police officers and firefighters in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Speaking in the witness stand on Friday for more than three hours on what was the eighth day of the trial, Ms Bryant said she wanted to begin to grieve the loss of her husband and daughter, but was faced with “fresh horror” after learning of the leaked photos a month after the crash.

“I felt like I wanted to run, run down the block and scream,” she said. “It was like the feeling of wanting to run down a pier and jump into the water.

“The problem is I can’t escape. I can’t escape my body.”

She told the court she took a phone call about the story in the Los Angeles Times while she was holding her seven-month-old daughter and spending time with friends and family.

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“I bolted out of the house and around to the side so my girls wouldn’t see.

“I was blindsided again, devastated, hurt. I trusted them. I trusted them not to do these things.”

The court was told how a sheriff’s deputy shared the photos of Bryant’s body to a bartender as he drank, and that firefighters circulated them among each other at a banquet.

Vanessa Bryant, second from left, the widow of the late Kobe Bryant, and friend Sydney Leroux, right, leave a federal courthouse in Los Angeles Friday, Aug. 19, 2022. Vanessa Bryant testified Friday that she was only beginning to grieve the loss of her husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna when she was faced with the fresh horror of learning that sheriff's deputies and firefighters had shot and shared photos of their bodies at the site of the helicopter crash that killed them. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Image:
Bryant (L) leaving the courthouse on Friday. Pic: AP
Los Angeles county firefighters arrive on the scene of a helicopter crash that reportedly killed retired basketball star Kobe Bryant in Calabasas, California, U.S., January 26, 2020.  REUTERS/Kyle Grillot - RC2XNE9YZY6F
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The crash in LA killed the basketball star and his daughter Gianna

Though the photos were never released publicly, Ms Bryant said: “I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up. I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.”

She added the thought of it keeps her awake and often gives her panic attacks.

According to a lawyer for the county J Mira Hashmall, the photos were taken because they were deemed important for assessing the site, but after LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva learned they were being shared, he demanded all copies be deleted.

Later, Ms Hashmall, while cross-examining Ms Bryant, said that the deputy who took the photos, Doug Johnson, was only trying to use the pictures as part of the investigation.

“You can understand why he would want the same information you did,” Ms Hashmall said.

“I don’t think you need to take close-up photos of people to determine how many people are on an aircraft,” Ms Bryant replied. “I think he could have just counted.”

Ms Bryant’s side rested its case after her testimony.

The trial continues.

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