Graphic Kobe Bryant crash photos were shown off by cops and firefighters at a bar and an awards ceremony, lawsuit says

Graphic Kobe Bryant crash photos were shown off by cops and firefighters at a bar and an awards ceremony, lawsuit says
Kobe and Gigi Bryant at a basketball game.AP Photo/Jessica Hill
  • LA County staff showed off images of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash, according to legal documents.
  • Vanessa Bryant's lawyer called on two private citizens, who described the incidents, to testify.

Graphic images of Kobe and Gianna Bryant after their deaths in a helicopter crash were shown off at bars and an awards ceremony, according to legal documents filed in a federal court.

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's widow, is suing the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, the fire department, the county, and eight police officers over the photos, alleging invasion of privacy and negligence.

She filed the suit in September 2020 after reports that officials were taking and sharing photos of human remains from the January 2020 crash. Nine people died in the accident, including Kobe and the 13-year-old Gianna.

A statement filed by Bryant's attorney, Luis Li, said that "close-up photos of Gianna and Kobe's remains were passed around on at least 28 Sheriff's Department devices and by at least a dozen firefighters and shown off in bars and at an awards gala."

"It has also shown that (county) Defendants engaged in a coverup, destroying the direct forensic evidence of their misconduct and requiring extensive circumstantial evidence to establish the full extent of that misconduct," Li said.


In the documents, Bryant's attorneys also proposed a witness list for the trial, which is set to happen over 15 days in February.

The list includes two private citizens, Ralph Mendez Jr. and Luella Weireter, who it said submitted separate complaints describing the crash photos being shown in public.

Bryant's filings said that Weireter was attending the 2020 Golden Mike awards less than a month after the crash.

There, she said she saw former LA County Fire Department PIO Tony Imbrenda talking about the photos and showing them to others.

Mendez said that Joey Cruz, a former deputy trainee at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, showed him and bartender Victor Gutierrez the pictures at his bar two days after the crash, per the lawsuit.


The county defended itself by saying the photos were not posted online or seen by the public, except for the incident at the bar, the lawsuit says.

Officials also said that the photos were swiftly deleted and that neither Mendez nor Weireter had actually seen them.

"They either 'overheard' something from 20 feet away or were told by someone what they had been told by someone else. That is not proper evidence," the response said.

Last month, a federal judge rejected the county's request to throw out Bryant's lawsuit, LA Times reported.