LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Sheriff Alex Villanueva says that eight deputies were involved in taking and sharing photos of the remains of Kobe Bryant and other victims at the scene of the helicopter crash in Calabasas, and that he ordered the photos to be destroyed
“That was my number one priority, to make sure those photos no longer existed,” Villanueva said.
The deputies involved are facing possible disciplinary action after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conducts an investigation.
Villanueva said, “it was such a hard scene dealing with the families first hand at Lost Hills Station… reassuring them that we’re doing everything possible, and then to find out days later that this happened, it’s just a sense of betrayal,” Villanueva told reporters. “All photos that we know of that were in the possession of the individuals were deleted.”
The National Transportation Safety Board and coroner’s office were the only agencies that were supposed to be taking photos at the scene of the crash, Villanueva said.
In a statement issued by the department on Feb. 28, Villanueva said he was “deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act.”
Villanueva went on to pledge in the statement that “a thorough investigation will be conducted by the department, with the No. 1 priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families.”
According to TMZ, “multiple LA County Sheriff’s deputies who responded to the crash scene took photos that included remains. We’re told one of the deputies — a trainee — took photos and at some point went to a bar and, as one source put it, ‘He tried to impress a girl by showing her the photos.’ We’re told the bartender overheard the conversation and filed an online complaint with the Sheriff’s Dept.
“We’re also told the cellphone photos were passed around at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation — the first responders to the crash. Sources say deputies from other substations around LA county also took cellphone photos.”
The Sheriff’s Department and other Los Angeles-area law enforcement agencies have struggled with keeping confidential information in high-profile cases from being shared in the past.