Monday was the fourth day of Vanessa Bryant’s trial against L.A. County over Kobe and Gigi Bryant’s crash site photos.
Several key Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies testified Monday, sharing strange memories and some regrets.
An L.A. sheriff’s deputy said he sent the photos to two other people because ‘curiosity gets the best of us.’
A federal courtroom in downtown Los Angeles got the inside scoop on why a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy waited four days to delete photos of the horrific crash site of a helicopter crash that Kobe, Gianna Bryant and nine others were killed.
During that time, the close-up photos would be shared with at least five other law enforcement officers, one of whom admitted to sharing the photos at the bar.
Several L.A. sheriff’s deputies who had a hand in disseminating the photos took the stand Monday as part of Vanessa Bryant’s ongoing lawsuit against L.A. County first responders who found human remains in the crash. Took and shared photos in which her husband, daughter died. and 7 others.
One of those deputies, Deputy Rafael Mejia, expressed regret and said he shared the photos with other staff members because “curiosity got the best of us.”
Mejia, who testified directly after two other deputies, said he received the photos from Deputy Andrew Versailles, who helped set up a makeshift command post at the base of the mountain where the helicopter crashed. was helped by
By 10:30 a.m. on the day of the crash, the command post had learned of the possibility that Kobe Bryant was on the flight. By noon, Deputy Doug Johnson had sent Versailles 30 photos of the crash, including photos of human remains. Johnson alleged that Versailles ordered him to take the photos, which Versailles denied in court Monday.
“I was surprised by the reception because I wasn’t expecting it,” Versailles said. He then sent the photos to Mejia, who worked a 16-hour shift on the day of the crash, and was stationed at the command post with Deputy Ruby Cable and his own trainee, Joey Cruz. By 9 p.m., she had shared photos with Cruz and Cable.
Cruise shared the photos at a bar in Norwalk, California.
When asked why he shared the photos in the audio of an internal LASD interview, Mejia said “curiosity gets the best of us.”
“It’s in our nature, as deputies,” Mejia added.
The photos sat on Mejia’s phone for four days, surrounded by photos of his family and friends, until he received a call from his superior on January 30, 2020, informing him that the first citizen In light of the complaint, the sheriff ordered all officials. who notified the crash site to delete the crash site images. Four days later, and because the images had already spread to the personal phones of at least five LASD staff members, Mejia deleted the images from his phone.
“Looking back, I wouldn’t do it again,” Mejia added.
In Versailles’ internal interview, audio shows him handing over his phone to LASD investigators — one of whom claimed he “didn’t know how iPhones worked” — for a total of two minutes. While they were looking at his text and image gallery. Cruise would then show the bartender some photos two days after the accident.
In their testimonies, Mejia and Versales offered conflicting accounts of why they took and shared the photos, and what the photos depicted. He also said that this is not the first time he has used a personal cell phone to photograph a horrific accident or crime scene.
On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, and baseball coach John Altobelli and their family crashed near Malibu, California while they were on a girls’ basketball team. were going to the game. All nine people on board, including pilot Ara Zobian, died in the crash.
In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the county’s fire department, the county as a whole, and eight officers for violating her loved ones’ constitutional rights in the wake of reports that first responders Givers took and shared closely. Photos of the remains at the January 2020 crash site. Chris Chester, whose wife, Sarah, and daughter Peyton were killed in the crash, is also suing county workers over the same federal claims and the county has been in a vigorous nine-day trial with Bryant.
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney Craig LaVoy supported Mejia in contradicting LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who said in a March 30, 2020 interview that “there were only two groups of people who should have been photographed — the NTS. B and the Coroner’s Office.”
County attorneys have maintained that the nature of the scene required first responders to take on-site photography to relay to command after the accident, given the accident, weather conditions and the resulting media frenzy.
In testimony, deputies talked about how they received performance log entries — a slap on the wrist usually reserved for poor grooming or clothing — in the months after the incident, and were shown in public. After citizens complained about the pictures.
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