Only “God knows” if the photos of the Kobe crash have disappeared

  • On Friday, LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva testified to photos of Kobe Bryant’s crash site.
  • As Los Angeles County’s first witness, Villanueva testified directly after Vanessa Bryant.
  • Villanueva maintained that he did the right thing by ordering his staff to delete the photos.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva offered a closer look at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s efforts to contain the horrific site of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash after the tragic event, defending his order to remove photos due to “an infinitely expanding universe”.

Villanueva, the first witness from Los Angeles County called to the stand, testified directly after Vanessa Bryant the eighth day by vanessa bryant and Chris Chester’s consolidated lawsuit against the county.

During his testimony, Villanueva doubled down on the removal order he sought after learning of a citizen complaint that Deputy Joey Cruz showed graphic photos at a bar in Norwalk, Calif.

“The longer we delayed, the more it was a universe that expanded into infinity,” Villanueva said. He claimed that with demands for legal and union representation from his staff, a traditional initial investigation into who took the photos and distributed them could have been prolonged, and the photos could have spread further.

“Dealing with a crisis is more important than policies,” Villanueva said. “There was no playbook for a situation like this.”

During that meeting at the Lost Hills sheriff’s station, Villanueva said he told his staff, “present all the photos and who you sent them to, and you will not receive disciplinary action.”

He admitted during questioning that in this “first blush” investigation and removal order on the Friday after the crash, his staff’s phones were not searched at the time, and he believed them. on parole for the deletion of the photos.

Emails posted during Villanueva’s testimony showed that Vanessa Bryant’s attorneys were requesting on March 2, 2020 that the LASD preserve all evidence related to the taking and sharing of photos at the crash site in anticipation of their court case. On March 26, 2020, LASD responded and said it would be unable to accommodate the request, citing in part the California Public Records Act and an ongoing internal investigation into the release of the photos.

In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant sued Los Angeles Countythe Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and County Fire Department in photos taken at the helicopter crash site of Kobe and Gianna Bryant that she says were shared by officers and other first responders .

In December of that year, the findings of the internal investigation were shared with Bryant’s team while the case was ongoing.

Villanueva told the court that a “set of 8” deputies’ devices were determined to be in possession of the photos. He said he had not heard testimony from LASD search and rescue manager David Katz that Deputy Doug Johnson took nearly 100 photos at the scene.

“The fact that he’s not appearing on social media at this stage of the game means they’ve done a good job,” Villanueva said. “I granted them amnesty to prevent the spread.”

Disagreeing with previous interviews from March 2020, where he said only the coroner’s office and the NTSB should have taken photos, Villanueva said the information he has gleaned since then about the bushfire and the threat “looky-loos” at the crash site meant some of his staff did the right thing by taking photos at the crash scene to “preserve the scene” for federal investigators.

Villanueva testified that he thought his agency’s investigators were thorough and confirmed that he expected them to be looking for cloud accounts as well as phones.

When asked if he knew for sure that the photos had been permanently deleted, Villanueva replied that “God knows, that’s about it.”

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