(CNN) — Following the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others, disturbing footage taken at the scene was shared among more than two dozen Los Angeles County employees, an attorney said Wednesday. of the NBA legend’s wife, Vanessa, in her lawsuit against the county over the photos.

Vanessa Bryant’s federal lawsuit alleges that photos taken of the victims’ remains, including those of her daughter and her husband, were shared in settings irrelevant to the investigation, including a bar and an awards show.

His attorney, Luis Li, presented a flow chart of how the initial photos spread from one deputy to more than a dozen deputies and more than a dozen members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Some photos were shared among the officers while playing the “Call of Duty” video game, Li said in his presentation of the case.

Vanessa Bryant wiped away tears as Li described how sheriff’s deputies captured and shared the photos.

“They took photos of broken bodies… close-ups of limbs, of burned flesh,” the lawyer said. “This shakes the conscience.”

Surveillance footage played in court showed one of the assistants at a bar showing a photo to a waiter, who backed away after seeing the image.

“Not in his worst nightmares did (Bryant) imagine that the police and first responders would go — and that it would be them — to take pictures of Kobe and Gianna’s remains for no reason,” Li said.

The attorney said county employees did not cause the Jan. 26, 2020 accident, but accused them of taking advantage of it, saying, “They poured salt on an unhealable wound.”

The defense emphasized that the photos have not been leaked online or to the media and warned jurors to separate the tragedy of the accident from the facts of the case about the photos.

“Families suffered an unspeakable loss … but that’s about the helicopter crash,” said Mira Hashmall, an attorney representing Los Angeles County. “This case is about the first responders and what they did.”

A jury of six women and four men was selected for the case. They include a nun, someone who works in television production for NBC Universal, a college student, a real estate investor, a pharmaceutical researcher, a computer teacher, and a restaurant host.

bryant trial pictures

Vanessa Bryant leaves a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on August 10, 2022.

Second plaintiff in court

The trial is expected to last about two weeks and witnesses are likely to include Vanessa Bryant and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The lawsuit, which was filed in September 2020, seeks undisclosed damages and alleges civil rights violations, negligence, emotional distress, and violation of privacy.

Wednesday’s trial ended with testimony from Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who sobbed as he described being Kobe Bryant’s best friend and Gianna’s godfather. On the day of the accident, Pelinka said he helped Vanessa Bryant get reassurances from the sheriff that the location would be safe to prevent people from trying to take photos of the scene.

Pelinka also shared the terror, anxiety, and pain she saw in Vanessa Bryant after learning crime scene photos were circulating among sheriff’s deputies. Her testimony will continue on Thursday morning.

In addition to Bryant, a second plaintiff is Christopher Chester, who lost his wife Sarah and daughter Payton in the crash. Chester’s attorney, Jerome Jackson, said photos from the scene may have captured disturbing scenes of Sarah’s remains.

“Why would anyone use those same photos to make cocktail talk?” Jackson said.

The defense argued that there were valid reasons for the photos of the scene, since the accident occurred 1.6 kilometers away from the side of a mountain at a height of 380 meters. Hashmall said the sheriff’s deputy took photos of more than just the bodies.

Had the sheriff’s deputy not documented the scene as he was trained, Hashmall said, he would not have been able to report to the command center, which was tasked not only with search and recovery but also fighting a wildfire sparked by the crash. .

“If you don’t have a photo,” he said, “you can’t come up with an answer.”

The defense admitted that the photos should not have spread as they did, but maintained that the county’s prompt action contained it.

“We are being sued over photos that are not on the internet, that are not in the media, and that have never been seen by the plaintiff,” Hashmall said.

Bryant’s attorney told jurors he would show that the county’s actions did not fully guarantee that the photos would not be released and that they could continue to surface on the Internet.

Following the crash, Sheriff Villanueva told CNN that the department was conducting an investigation and that eight deputies were facing administrative action due to allegations that they shared crash scene photos with people outside the investigation.

The sheriff said in March 2020 that all photos of the scene that were in the possession of officers had been removed. Months later, attorneys for Vanessa Bryant filed a motion asserting that the department’s actions amounted to the destruction of evidence.

— CNN’s Eric Levenson and Stella Chan contributed to this report.



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