Vanessa Bryant testified Friday that she has been experiencing panic and anxiety attacks since learning that Los Angeles County Sheriffs were taking and sharing photos of the helicopter crash site where her husband, Kobe Bryant; her daughter, Gianna Bryant; and seven others died on January 26, 2020.
“I don’t think anyone should ever see their relatives that way.”
Vanessa Bryant, who is suing the county for invasion of privacy and emotional distress, also described how she initially learned that the photos existed and had been shared while with her two small children, a month after the crash in February.
“I just remember not wanting to respond because the girls were in the room,” she testified, according to CNN. “I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ …And I shot out of the house and I ran to the side of the house so the girls couldn’t see me I wanted to… run down the block and just scream I can’t escape my body I can’t escape from what I feel.”
Last week, Bryant’s attorney Luis Li alleged that LA County officials took photos on cell phones and shared them with those who were not part of the crash cleanup — including a bartender. Mira Hashmall, the county attorney, claimed that “site photography is essential” and Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted that he was aware of the photos’ existence but believed they had all been deleted.
Vanessa Bryant added that she doesn’t want to remember her husband, her daughter and the other victims — and neither should the world — only of the crash that killed them.
“I want to remember my husband and my daughter as they were,” Bryant told The Washington Post. “I never want to see these photos shared or viewed.
“I expected them to have more compassion and respect. My husband and my daughter deserve dignity.”
Chris Chester, whose wife, Sarah, and 13-year-old daughter, Payton, also died in the crash, joined Bryant in the lawsuit. He testified on Thursday that he lives in constant fear that the photos will be released. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who was Kobe’s agent and close friend as well as Gianna’s godfather, testified Wednesday that sharing the footage “added so much more sadness,” according to USA Today.
Law enforcement officers and first responders testified earlier this week in what The Washington Post described as a “humiliating” exhibit.
“A fire chief claimed he did not remember being on the scene and left the witness stand three times to gather himself. Another deputy sheriff apologized for showing photos of a bartender buddy of the scene. Forensic analysis has shown that cell phones and hard drives containing the illegal photos were mysteriously missing or wiped clean.”
Although county attorneys have pointed out that no photos have surfaced publicly more than two years after the crash, Bryant said she felt betrayed by those who still took and shared them, still fearing the photos would be released and that she or her family will eventually see them.
“It’s like COVID,” Bryant said, according to NBC Los Angeles. “Once it’s spread, you can’t get it back.”
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