Vanessa Bryant is taking the stand in her civil suit filed against Los Angeles County after the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant and her 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant back in January of 2020.
As we’ve been reporting, the suit is centered on graphic photos of the helicopter crash scene that were taken by sheriff’s deputies and then reportedly leaked online. Bryant filed suit against the Sheriff’s Department and the county over the leak, and has since been dreading the existence of the photos and the fact that they have been gawked at by total strangers.
Last week, we reported on the beginning of the trial and Vanessa’s early emotional reaction to digging up these difficult memories of the late NBA legend and the couple’s teenage daughter. She’s not the only one who has voiced concern in recent days about the existence of those traumatic crash photos, either.
And on Friday, it was Vanessa’s turn to speak on the record. The 40-year-old woman testified that she was at home breastfeeding her then-7-month-old baby daughter Capri when she received an alert from the Los Angeles Times that sheriff’s deputies had been sharing crash photos.
According to CNN, she testified that she had to rush away from her family upon hearing the report:
“I just remember not wanting to react cause the girls were in the room. I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ … And I bolted out of the house and I ran to the side of the house so the girls couldn’t see me. I wanted to run… down the block and just scream. I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape what I feel.”
In her testimony, Bryant revealed that she experiences panic attacks and anxiety “to this day” regarding the possibility of seeing photos from the crash.
She stated she was even harassed online by random Instagram users after the crash. At one point, she testified, she was forced to remove comments from her IG feed after a user wrote “Ima leak Kobe’s body” with helicopter and fire emojis. Disgusting…
At one point during her testimony, the grieving widow recalled an interaction she had with LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva after the tragic accident.
She testified Villanueva said to her:
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Bryant. Is there anything I can do for you?”
Immediately, she was concerned, responding:
“If you can’t bring my babies back, then please secure the area. I’m concerned about paparazzi.”
Specifically, she wanted Villanueva to enact a temporary flight restriction over the area of the crash site in Calabasas in order to prevent paparazzi helicopters from zeroing in on the scene.
In her testimony, Bryant claimed Villanueva “assured” her he would honor the request — but he allegedly wasted time without actually doing it. When she repeated the request later, urging him to take action, she testified he “finally” stepped up and secured a temporary flight restriction over the area from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Per the Washington Post, Bryant fought back tears as she testified:
“I want to remember my husband and my daughter the way they were. I don’t ever want to see these photographs shared or viewed.”
As we’ve been reporting, Bryant has sued the department for negligence, invasion of privacy, and intentional affliction of emotional distress. In the suit, the widow is accusing eight sheriff’s deputies of taking cell phone pictures of the bodies of Kobe and Gianna, and sharing them with other people unaffiliated with the department.
In a September 2020 court filing on the issue, Bryant’s legal team wrote:
“The Sheriff’s Department’s outrageous actions have caused Mrs. Bryant severe emotional distress and compounded the trauma of losing Kobe and Gianna. Ms. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child, and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.”
Here is more on the story from ABC 7 News (below):
The trial will continue next week.
[Image via WENN/Avalon]