First responders, including Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials, allegedly took unauthorized photographs that showed the aftermath of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash

By Jason Duaine Hahn
September 29, 2020 04:56 PM
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Kobe Bryant
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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill this week in response to reports that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials shared graphic photographs of the crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant.

Newsom signed AB 2655 on Monday, which will prohibit first responders from taking photographs of deceased victims ″outside of job duties," according to Assemblyman Mike Gipson of Carson, who pushed for the legislation. Violation of the law will result in a misdemeanor, KCBS reported.

After Bryant was killed in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, the Los Angeles Times reported that L.A. County sheriff’s deputies shared photos of the accident site that included images of the victims. The newspaper said deputies allegedly continued to share and discuss the photos in the days following the accident, which occurred in Calabasas, California.

The sharing of the images happened despite Bryant's wife, Vanessa, personally speaking to Sheriff Alex Villanueva on the morning of the crash to request the site be secured for privacy, a legal claim filed against the department in May revealed.

″In reality, however, no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches,″ the document, filed by Vanessa and obtained by PEOPLE, said. ″As the Department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes."

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Only the county coroner’s office and investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were permitted to photograph the scene, Villanueva confirmed to reporters at the time.

″That is the only two groups of people,″ Villanueva said in March. ″Anybody outside of that would be unauthorized. They’d be illicit photos."

Villanueva responded to Newsom's signing of the bill — also known as the Kobe Bryant Act of 2020 — on Monday night.

″Shortly following the Calabasas helicopter crash which tragically took nine lives, I sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take or share pictures of the deceased for other than an official purpose," he wrote on Twitter.

"Thank you to @GavinNewsom for signing #AB2655 today, @AsmMikeGipson for authoring, and @JonesSawyerAD59 for supporting in committee," Villanueva continued.

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In March, the Bryant family's legal team spoke out about the alleged image sharing by deputies and said it had left Vanessa ″devastated.″

“First responders should be trustworthy,” her lawyer, Gary C. Robb, said in a statement. ″It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LAFD would allegedly breach their duty.″

″This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families," he added.

The Bryant family's legal team did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on Tuesday.