Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, revealed parts of her lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff and Fire Departments in a series of Instagram posts Wednesday.
The 12 posts, which she shared with her 14.4 million followers, name the officers who allegedly shared photos from the scene of the helicopter crash where her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were killed.
According to the case, he shared his initial concern for the privacy of the crash site almost immediately with Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Despite the assurances Villanueva provided at the time, a subsequent LASD investigation showed that an officer took between 25 and 100 photos on his personal cell phone, including some focused solely on the remains of the victims.
Many of those photos, the lawsuit alleges, were quickly shared via text messages and the AirDrop feature on iPhones to other Sheriff’s Department deputies who had no connection to the investigation.
Bryant highlighted the names of the officers – Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejía, Michael Russell and Raul Versales – with red markings at their starting position. Earlier this month, he won a case against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to release the names of the four officers.
Mejía is alleged to have stored photos of the crash site on his personal phone and shared them with others, without being asked, “for no other reason than morbid gossip,” the lawsuit says.
It is also alleged that Mejía sent the photos to Cruz, a Sheriff’s Department deputy intern, who shared the photos with Russell, showed them to a family member, and also proudly displayed them to customers and the waiter. At a sports bar in Norwalk. California, several days later.
One of the bar’s patrons, who overheard the bartender describe the gory details in the photos Cruz showed him, sent an email complaint to the Sheriff’s Department that same night.
Russell allegedly saved the photos in an album on his personal cell phone and shared them with a friend who worked at a different police station without being involved in the investigation.
Versales, a Sheriff’s Department officer, is alleged to have obtained and shared photos from his personal cell phone on the day of the accident, including Mejía, with people without an official purpose to view them.
The lawsuit also alleges that several of the named officers made false statements about their possession and knowledge of the photos of the accident during the LASD investigation.
Almost 14 months have passed since January 26, 2020, when Kobe Bryant, Gianna and seven other people were killed when the helicopter they were occupying crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California.