In a court deposition on Oct. 12, Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late Kobe Bryant recalled how she learned of about the deaths of her husband their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant.
The two had passed in a tragic January 2020 helicopter crash.
Vanessa’s deposition was part of a lawsuit she filed in September 2020 against Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his department, claiming that eight sheriff’s deputies took cell phone photos for their personal use of the bodies of her late husband and daughter at the helicopter crash scene where they died.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages, including punitive damages, for negligence, invasion of privacy as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A time the lawsuit was filed, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement to ET: “Shortly following this tragic crash, Sheriff Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take and share non-official pictures of this nature. Due to the pending litigation, we are unable to offer further comment.”
Vanessa said that she first heard about the helicopter crash around 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 26, when her family’s assistant “told me that there was an accident and that there were five survivors,” according to a transcript of the deposition.
The assistant was not positive if Kobe and Gianna were among the survivors, and as a result, Vanessa began calling her husband with no luck.
Vanessa then asked her mom, Sofia Lane, to come over to watch her two youngest children, Capri, 2, and Bianca, 4, while she went to pick up her eldest child, 18-year-old Natalia, from an ACT prep class. And while on the phone with her mother, Vanessa saw “RIP Kobe” notifications begin.
After she picked up Natalia, she told the teen “not to worry,” but grew “frustrated” because “no one was telling me whether or not they were OK,” as they “couldn’t tell us anything over the phone.”
Vanessa then attempted to charter a helicopter to the crash site but was refused due to the weather conditions. So then, Vanessa the Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka drove her and Natalia to the Sheriff’s station in Malibu.
Vanessa said that the officers at the station “weren’t prepared” when they arrived and kept moving her from room to room. In addition, they would not tell her the status of her husband and daughter.
But eventually, Sheriff Villanueva walked in and informed her what had happened.
“He says, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ And I said, ‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area.’ And he said, ‘I will.'”
Vanessa also claimed the sheriff confirmed that the area was “secure” with a “no-fly zone,” before she and Natalia left the station ahead of a planned press conference.
The lawsuit, Vanessa said, was filed in hopes of getting “accountability.”
“I don’t think it’s right that I have to deal with this; that my kids have to deal with this when they get older and they become aware of what happened; that our friends have to deal with this,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s fair that I’m here today having to fight for accountability. Because no one should ever have to endure this type of pain and fear of their family members… I just don’t understand how someone can have no regard for life and compassion, and, instead, choose to take that opportunity to photograph lifeless and helpless individuals for their own sick amusement.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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