As reported by Bloomberg: An LASD deputy betrayed public trust by showing photos of Kobe Bryant’s body to a bartender, a witness testified during the trial into the leak.
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Two days after the helicopter crash that took the lives of Bryant, his daughter, and seven others, Rafael Mendez Jr. was a customer at the bar in Norwalk, California. He told the jury he filed a complaint with the sheriff’s department from his driveway after being disgusted by the bartender’s description of the photos the deputy had shown him moments earlier.
Mendez testified, “I felt I needed to do the right thing and let the sheriff’s department know what happened.” “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and it made me very angry.”
Los Angeles County was sued for negligence and invasion of privacy by Bryant’s widow Vanessa and Orange County financial adviser Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter were also killed in the crash. They are asking for damages, but they haven’t specified how much.
According to Bryant’s amended complaint, which was filed in federal court in Los Angeles on March 17, 2021, “Sheriff’s Department personnel abused their access to the crash site by taking and sharing gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches.”
Victor Gutierrez, the bartender, testified that he couldn’t recall much of what happened. The jury was shown a silent video from the bar showing the two men gesturing and laughing in response to the photos of the dismembered bodies, but he testified that he and the deputy had not laughed about them.
Gutierrez remarked, “Only a psycho would laugh” at such images.
Vanessa Bryant started crying during the bartender’s testimony and had to be taken out of the courtroom by her lawyer. She never came back.
Prior to Bryant’s helicopter crash in 2020, a deputy testified, the sheriff’s office did not have a policy regarding the sharing of photos from incident scenes.
David Katz, a reserve deputy with 32 years of experience, said he had never heard of any procedures governing the sharing of photos of dead bodies, but that he himself would not break such a policy.
Wednesday marked the beginning of the trial, with opening statements from both sides and testimony from Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka presented to the 10-person jury.
Alex Villanueva, sheriff of Los Angeles, and Vanessa Bryant, an LAPD officer, are two of the witnesses expected to testify.
Case number 20-cv-09582 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California is Bryant v. County of Los Angeles (Los Angeles)
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