The widow of Kobe Bryant has published the names of Los Angeles County police officers who she said shared graphic photos of the scene of her husband’s death in a helicopter crash last year.
Vanessa Bryant is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for negligence and invasion of privacy.
“We will refrain from trying this case in the media,” the sheriff said in response.
Basketball star Bryant died with his daughter and seven others in the crash.
On Wednesday Vanessa Bryant, 38, posted on Instagram the names of four sheriff’s deputies.
She says they took graphic pictures of the nine people who died in the crash close to Calabasas, California, in January last year.
She alleges that one of the officers shared with a bartender photos of Kobe Bryant’s body and the others distributed “gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches”.
She claims the pictures, including those of her 13-year-old daughter Gianna, were taken and shared “for no reason other than morbid gossip”.
Last week a judge rejected an attempt to stop publication of the officer’s names, allowing Bryant to disclose them.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva responded on Twitter to Bryant’s post, saying that the department would wait for a court to decide the outcome of the case.
We will refrain from trying this case in the media and will wait for the appropriate venue. Our hearts go out to all the families affected by this tragedy.
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) March 18, 2021
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Bryant alleges that at least eight officers took pictures of the crash site for their personal use, and claims that one took between 25 and 100 photos.
In February safety investigators said the helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan, may have become disoriented in fog before the aircraft smashed into a hillside.
The US National Transportation Safety Board said the main cause of the crash was most likely the pilot’s decision to keep flying in inclement conditions “which resulted in the pilot’s spatial disorientation and loss of control”.
As well as Bryant, his daughter and the pilot, those killed included two of Gianna’s basketball teammates, their relatives and a coach. The group were on their way to a tournament in Thousand Oaks where Bryant had been set to coach.
The fatal crash prompted a global outpouring of support for the NBA star and his family as well as a number of lawsuits.
Mrs Bryant has also sued the estate of the pilot, Mr Zobayan, and the companies that owned and operated the helicopter for alleged negligence and wrongful death. Families of the other victims sued the helicopter companies, but not Mr Zobayan’s estate.
California now has a state law prohibiting first responders from taking unauthorised pictures of people who died at the scene of an accident or crime.