Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, made public Wednesday the names of four Los Angeles sheriff’s officers she alleges improperly received and shared graphic photos of her husband and their daughter Gianna that were taken at the site of a helicopter crash that killed both of them in January 2020.
Bryant’s attorneys added the names — Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell and Raul Versales — to the lawsuit, which was filed last September in California. Vanessa Bryant also posted excerpts from the amended suit that detail the allegations against the officers.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter ruled March 8 that the officers’ names did not need to be kept under seal, thus allowing the Bryant legal team to publicize the names.
“Although the Court recognizes that this case has been the subject of public scrutiny and media attention and that the Deputy Defendants are legitimately concerned that they will encounter vitriol and social media attacks, such concerns, by themselves, are not sufficient to outweigh the public’s strong interest in access,” Walter said in his ruling (per USA Today).
The suit alleges that the officers — none of whom were directly involved in the crash investigation — took, received and showed graphic images of Kobe and Gianna’s bodies and the wreckage site. Nine people died when the aircraft slammed into a hill in Southern California while flying in dense fog on Jan. 26, 2020. The group was traveling to a youth basketball game.
Vanessa Bryant is suing the deputies, the sheriff’s office and the Los Angeles County Fire Department, alleging negligence and invasion of privacy. She is seeking damages and also wants to “make an example” of the officers, per USA Today.