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Bryant Trial: Sheriff's Captain Testifies His Own Agent Had No Business Photographing Kobe Bryant's Crash Site

Los Angeles

Deputies responding to the helicopter crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others did not have the authority to take photos of the crash site, the Los Angeles County sheriff’s captain said in court Tuesday. said in

The testimony was part of a federal civil lawsuit filed by Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, in which Los Angeles County violated her privacy, failed to fully contain the spread of the photos, and caused her emotional distress. He claims to have given

Tuesday’s testimony left a gaping hole in the county’s defense that the photos of the scene were valid.

Capt. Matthew Vander Hoek, who leads the Sheriff’s Department in response to the 2020 crash, said on the witness stand that only the National Transportation Safety Board and coroners should take pictures of the plane crash site.

“The (delegates’) role is… just to secure the scene, right?” Bryant’s attorney, Lewis Lee, asked.

“Yes,” Vander Hawk agreed.

Lee asked if federal agents should be left with their jobs, and Vander Hawke agreed.

However, one of Vander Horck’s own deputies testified that he had been asked by the command post supervisor that day to take a picture. These photos, which contain images of human remains, were then shared among other agents of both the sheriff’s and fire departments, leading to federal lawsuits for invasion of privacy.

Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter also died in the crash, is a co-plaintiff. Both he and Bryant claim they live in fear that the photos will resurface online.

Vander Hoek agreed with Lee that unofficial photos cause a “loss of public confidence.” He also agreed that the county’s policy allowing lawmakers to photograph bodies only applies to road accidents and crime scenes, not air crashes. He said it wasn’t necessary for

In question, defense attorneys questioned whether Vander Horck’s statement fully applied the circumstances on the day of the crash.

“Did you know that when the NTSB showed up the next day, the first thing they asked for was a picture?” asked Jason Tokoro, an attorney representing the county.

“No, I don’t know,” replied Vander Horck.

Vander Hoek’s testimony was also used by plaintiffs’ attorneys to attack the county’s handling of the photos when it emerged that the photos had been shared between attorneys.

Instead of launching a full investigation and preserving evidence, attorneys have the Sheriff’s Intelligence Agency, which handles public information, report all agents involved to their agency and confirm that the photos have been taken down. He claimed to have ordered

“If no one finds out, they won’t be disciplined,” Vander Horck said he was told. “If the media found out, they would be fired.”

Vander Hoek said he had immediate reservations about an order to remove the photos, saying it was “totally unnormative and outside the chain of command.”

“I don’t want to be responsible for destroying evidence in federal investigations,” Vander Horck told his boss. He also told the court he was concerned that the order would violate state peace officer rights bills and could jeopardize the investigation.

“I was told by the sheriff that I had full powers of …,” he continued. “I reiterated that I was uncomfortable with these directions…he said this is the way we should go.”

In March 2020, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said all photos had been removed and eight deputies were facing administrative action. CNN reached out to Villanueva for comment.

Defense attorneys argued that a longer investigation would involve lawyers and union representatives, increasing the risk of the photos being leaked.

Asked whether investigative officials “have a copy of the photo,” Vander Horck replied, “I think so.”

Earlier Tuesday, Bryant’s attorneys disagreed with Los Angeles County attorneys over the content of the sheriff’s deputy’s call, which he held up to show the bartender and share a laugh.

During the cross-examination of Deputy Joey Cruz, who received photos from a trainer while working on the crash in 2020, defense attorneys zoomed in on surveillance video on Cruise’s phone to see if he could examine the crash photos. Instead, it indicated that you were scrolling through your Instagram feed.

“Does this confirm your memory of watching social media?” asked defense attorney Mira Hashmol.

“Yes,” Cruz replied.

However, the plaintiff’s attorney asked for the video to be enlarged at another time.

When asked by plaintiffs attorney Craig Lavoie, Cruz agreed that he appeared to have stopped scrolling through Instagram and switched to another function on his phone. ’” I noted the bartender’s reaction and asked Cruz for an explanation.

“I can’t explain his actions,” Cruz replied. He said it was part of a relaxing evening at a bar with a bartender he considered his best friend.

Cruz said he showed a picture of the bartender’s crash site in another part of the video, claiming it was the only time he specifically showed the picture that night.

Cruz was suspended without pay for two days and ordered to undergo three days of compulsory training for violating the sheriff’s confidentiality policy.

Showing the bartender “is my lack of judgment and is inconsistent with my training,” Cruz said in court.

“If I could go back… I would do everything differently when it comes to photography,” Cruz said, noting that the error of judgment was part of the stress he felt while working at the crash site two days earlier. did.

However, plaintiffs’ attorneys questioned Cruise’s level of stress and said he never sought county resources to deal with stress or referred to reports detailing the sharing of photos. .

“I’ve never been this overwhelmed. … I made a mistake. … I was making bad decisions,” Cruz said.

Attorney Jerome Jackson, representing co-plaintiff Chester, said, “Is one of the reasons you’re feeling sorry for hurting my client so deeply?

“Yes,” Cruz replied.

“And you know it hurt Ms. Bryant deeply,” Jackson said.

“Yes,” Cruz said.

Deputy Commissioner Michael Russell testified Tuesday in the station’s secretariat that he obtained the photos from Cruz after hours and later told officials he was “interested” in seeing and learning from them.

The day after receiving the photo, Russell agreed to text the photo when he was playing the video game Call of Duty with another representative at another station.

Russell was asked if this was just a casual exchange for him.

Russell’s job that day was to ensure that only authorized personnel arrived at the scene, as crowds flocked to the scene after news surfaced that Bryant was in a helicopter.

An internal investigation found Russell, who had never been suspended, demoted or given probation, violated policy by sending and receiving photos of the crash site.

Russell told the court that when he sent the photo to another lieutenant, he had no idea it violated department policy. Told.

“If I could go back to the day I asked[Cruise]for a picture, I wouldn’t do it again,” Russell said. “It was very callous to me.”