Investigation launched into 'disturbing' photos from Kobe Bryant crash site

The widow of basketball star Kobe Bryant is “absolutely devastated” by allegations that deputies shared graphic photos of the helicopter crash scene where Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed, her lawyer said in a statement on Saturday.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday that a public safety source with knowledge of the events had seen one of the photos on the phone of another official in a setting that was not related to the investigation of the crash.

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He said the photos showed the scene and victims’ remains.

The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the allegations.

Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Centre in November. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Friday it was investigating the allegations detailed in the newspaper’s report.

“The sheriff is deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act,” the department said.

Vanessa Bryant's lawyer, Gary Robb, said that she went to the sheriff's office on January 26, the day of the crash, “and requested that the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers.”

Investigators work at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. (Photo by James Anderson/National Transportation Safety Board via Getty Images)

“This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families,” Robb said.

“At that time, Sheriff Alex Villanueva assured us all measures would be put in place to protect the families’ privacy, and it is our understanding that he has worked hard to honour those requests.”

‘Unspeakable violation of human decency’

Robb said the sharing of photos would be “an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families.”

He called for those who shared the photos to “face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated.”

The Times also reported on Friday that the Sheriff’s Department quietly ordered deputies to delete any photos of the helicopter crash scene after a citizen complained that a deputy was showing the gruesome images at a Norwalk, California, bar, two public safety sources with knowledge of the events said.

Kobe and Gianna were killed in the crash, along with pilot Ara Zobayan; Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife Keri Altobelli; their 14-year-old daughter Alyssa Altobelli; Christina Mauser, a basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach; Payton Chester, a basketball teammate of Gianna’s; and her mother, Sarah Chester.

Law enforcement agencies in the area have struggled in the past to prevent confidential information in high-profile cases from being leaked.

With Yahoo Sports Staff