Sneakers honoring “Gigi” Bryant sell out in just 2 minutes 0:41 Los Angeles (CNN) — Responders to the helicopter crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others They were not authorized to take photos of the crash scene, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s captain said in court Tuesday. The testimony was part of a federal civil lawsuit filed by Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, alleging that Los Angeles County invaded her privacy and failed to fully contain the release of the photos, causing her emotional harm. Tuesday’s testimony tore a huge hole in the county’s defense that the photos from the scene were valid because they helped first responders at a command post plan their response. Capt. Matthew Vander Horck, who heads the police station that responded to the 2020 crash, said on the stand that the only people who should take photos of the scene of a plane crash are the National Transportation Safety Board and the coroner. “The only role that (sheriff’s deputies) have … is to secure the scene, right?” Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, asked. “Yes,” Vander Horck agreed. Li asked if aides should let federal investigators do their jobs, and Vander Horck agreed. However, one of Vander Horck’s own aides testified that a command post supervisor asked him that day to take the photos. Those photos, which included images of human remains, were later shared among other sheriff’s deputies and firefighters, leading to the federal invasion of privacy lawsuit. Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter also died in the crash, is a co-plaintiff. Both he and Bryant say they live in fear that the photos will reappear on the Internet. Vander Horck agreed with Li that the unofficial photos cause a “loss of public trust.” He also agreed that county policies allowing sheriff’s deputies to take photos of dead bodies apply only to car accident and crime scenes, not air disasters. Photos from the crash scene were also not necessary to identify the helicopter, he said. During cross-examination, defense attorneys questioned whether Vander Horck’s statements fully applied to the situation on the day of the accident. A mural depicting the late NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, painted by @sloe_motions, is displayed on a building on February 13, 2020 in Los Angeles. “Are you aware that when the NTSB showed up the next day the first thing they asked for was photos?” asked attorney Jason Tokoro, representing the county. “No, I don’t know,” Vander Horck replied. ‘If no one found out, they wouldn’t be penalized’ Vander Horck’s testimony was also used by plaintiffs’ attorneys to attack the county’s handling of the photos once it was revealed they had been shared between aides, one of the which he later showed some of the photos to a waiter he considered a friend. The attorneys argued that instead of opening a full investigation and preserving the evidence, the Sheriff’s Information Office, which handles public information, ordered all of the deputies involved to report to their precinct and ensure that the photos were deleted. “If nobody found out, they wouldn’t be disciplined,” Vander Horck said he was told. “If the media found out, they would be fired.” Vander Horck said he had immediate reservations about the order to delete the photos, saying the directives were “totally outside the norm and outside the chain of command.” “We don’t want to be held responsible for the destruction of evidence in a federal investigation,” Vander Horck said he told his superior. He also told the court he was concerned the warrants violated the state peacekeepers’ bill of rights and potentially jeopardized an investigation. “I was told that the sheriff … has full authority,” he continued. “I reiterated that I was uncomfortable with these directions…he told me this was the path we were going to take.” In March 2020, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said all the photos had been deleted and eight deputies were facing administrative action. CNN has requested comment from Villanueva. The defense argued that a longer investigation would implicate lawyers and union representatives, increasing the risk of the photos being leaked. Tokoro asked if those involved in an investigation “would have copies of the photos,” to which Vander Horck replied, “I guess.” Attorneys Debate Over Crash Photos Displayed at Bar Earlier Tuesday, Bryant’s attorneys differed with Los Angeles County defense attorneys over what exactly was on a sheriff’s deputy’s phone when he held it up to show a waiter and shared a laugh. During the cross-examination of Deputy Joey Cruz, who received the photos of his training officer while working on the accident in 2020, defense attorneys zoomed in on surveillance video from Cruz’s phone to show him scrolling through a feed. on Instagram instead of sifting through photos of the crash. “Does this confirm his memory that he was looking at his social media?” defense attorney Mira Hashmall asked. “Yes,” Cruz replied. But plaintiffs’ attorneys asked that the video be expanded at a later time. When he was questioned by plaintiff attorney Craig Lavoie, Cruz conceded that he appeared to have stopped scrolling Instagram and switched to another function on the phone, which Lavoie alleged were photos of Kobe Bryant’s crash site. Lavoie then observed the reaction of the waiter, who “made gestures with his torso and hit his neck” and asked Cruz to explain it. “I can’t explain his actions,” Cruz replied. He also denied laughing at the crash site photos, saying the times he was seen smiling in the video were part of a decompression evening at the bar with a bartender he considered a good friend. Cruz said he did show the bartender the crash site photos elsewhere in the video, maintaining that was the only time he specifically showed the photos that night. Cruz was suspended without pay for two days and ordered to complete three days of mandatory training for violating the sheriff’s department’s confidentiality policies. Teaching the waitress was “a failure of my judgment and was not consistent with my training,” Cruz said in court. “If I could go back … I would do everything differently regarding the photos,” Cruz said, noting that his lack of judgment was part of the stress he felt working at the accident scene two days earlier. They remember Kobe Bryant and his daughter with a statue 0:42 But plaintiffs’ attorneys questioned Cruz’s level of stress, noting that he never sought county resources to deal with stress or referred to it in a report he filed detailing the exchange Of the photos. “I’ve never been through anything as overwhelming as this. … I made a mistake. … I had bad judgment,” Cruz said. Jerome Jackson, an attorney representing co-plaintiff Chester, asked, “One of the reasons you feel remorse is that you have deeply hurt my client?” “Yes,” Cruz replied. “And you know you have deeply hurt Mrs. Bryant,” Jackson testified. “Yes,” Cruz said. He shared the photos while playing “Call of Duty.” Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Russell testified Tuesday that he obtained the photos of Cruz while he was off duty in the newsroom at the precinct, and later told officers he was “curious” to see and learn from them.The day after receiving the photos, Russell was playing a “Call of Duty” video game with another sheriff’s deputy at another precinct when he agreed to text the photos. Asked if this was a casual exchange for him, Russell said, “It was more of a stress reliever that I dealt with the day before.” had been secured Ensure that only authorized personnel arrived at the scene, as crowds flocked to the scene after Kobe Bryant was known to be aboard the helicopter. An internal investigation determined that Russell, who was never suspended, demoted or paroled, had violated policies by receiving and sending the accident scene photos. Russell told the court that when he sent the photos to the other deputy, it didn’t cross his mind that doing so was a violation of department policy. “I made a serious mistake,” he said. “If I could go back to that day when I asked (Cruz) for those pictures, I wouldn’t do it again,” Russell said. “It was very insensitive of me.”
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