Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, said she learned about the basketball star’s death when social media notifications began showing up on her phone—hours before she got the official confirmation from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
“I was holding onto my phone, because obviously I was trying to call my husband back, and all these notifications started popping up on my phone, saying ‘RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe,'” Vanessa Bryant said in a deposition on October 12.
Bryant, 41, and one of his daughters, Gianna, 13, were among nine people killed when a helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26, 2020.
They were on their way to a basketball game at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks when the crash happened, Lady Mavericks team director Evelyn Morales said at the time.
Vanessa Bryant testified as part of her lawsuit against the sheriff’s department, fire department, and Los Angeles County, alleging that department employees took photos of the helicopter crash site, including photos of bodies believed to be her husband and daughter.
“I don’t think it’s fair that I’m here today having to fight for accountability,” Bryant said, according to a transcript of the deposition that was filed with the court Friday.
“Because no one should ever have to endure this type of pain and fear of their family members. The pictures getting released, this is not okay.”
Bryant said that on the day of the crash, representatives of the sheriff’s department repeatedly refused to answer her questions about the condition of her family members until Sheriff Alex Villanueva arrived and told her personally that they had died.
“And he says, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ And I said: If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure no one takes photographs of them,” Bryant said, according to the deposition transcript. “Please secure the area. And he said: I will.”
Bryant said she was afraid of “fans or drones or helicopters” taking images of the scene, according to the transcript.
The sheriff’s department has declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.
The deposition frequently became contentious and emotional as defense attorney Louis Miller asked Bryant to look at several photos that Bryant’s attorneys had submitted as evidence, which showed scenes from the crash that had been sent to Vanessa Bryant or circulated online.
“I don’t want to look at this,” Bryant said, at times holding her hand over the video conference screen. “This is terrible.”
Miller also asked Bryant to discuss whether she might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The partially redacted transcript does not indicate Bryant’s response.
Los Angeles County has asked the court to compel Bryant to take a psychiatric exam.
Bryant said the aftermath of the crash and disclosure of photos has been so traumatizing, she has maintained possession of the clothing that Kobe and Gianna Bryant were wearing at the time of their deaths.
“And if their clothes represent the condition of their bodies, I cannot imagine how someone could be so callous and have no regard for them or our friends, and just share the images as if they were animals on a street,” she said.