Following the helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant and eight other people, a number of Sheriff’s deputies have been discovered sharing graphic photos from the scene of the crash.
In a story that broke last week, suspicions were raised on Friday that Los Angeles deputies had shared graphic photos from the crash scene. These suspicions were confirmed on Monday when County Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed that eight of his deputies were involved in the scandal.
Sheriff Villanueva feels “betrayed” by his deputies
Villanueva described the scandal as “a punch to the gut” and said he was “shocked” and that he felt “betrayed” by his employees. He also vowed that it was his number one priority to “make sure those photos no longer exist.” He said that the deputies involved would be facing disciplinary action and an investigation, although it remains unclear if the deputies have broken any rules.
It was reported on Friday that a bartender working a shift had overheard a trainee deputy showing a woman images on his phone from the crash site. The irate bartender allegedly filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s department.
Sharing of photos is not illegal
While it is not unlawful for the deputies to share photographs, it is firmly frowned upon, and department policy is generally against the sharing of information from crime scenes; however, this might not apply to accident scenes.
Joseph Giacalone, who teaches police procedures at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that the sharing of photos with anyone not authorized to see them “is a cardinal sin in law enforcement.”
The sharing of information and evidence when celebrities are involved is a problem that has blighted law enforcement agencies for years, the Los Angeles Police Dept. has always been particularly vulnerable to this issue.
The only two groups that were apparently authorized to take photos at the crash site were members of the county coroners office and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Bryant’s widow Vanessa Bryant said she was devastated by reports that images had been shared from the crash scene. Sheriff Villanueva says he has apologized to the families.
Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people were killed January 26, when the helicopter carrying them to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s sports facility in Thousand Oaks crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles, during cloudy weather.
The other victims were Christina Mauser; Payton and Sarah Chester; John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; and pilot Ara Zobayan.
The crash remains under investigation by the NTSB.
A memorial was held on February 24, with thousands filling the Staples Center in Los Angeles. There were emotional speeches from Bryant’s wife Vanessa Bryant and basketball greats Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.