Vanessa Bryant's deposition reveals how she learned of crash, sheriff's promise to secure site
Vanessa Bryant answered questions during a virtual deposition on Friday with a lawyer representing Los Angeles County in her lawsuit against it, and revealed new information regarding the death of Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna and the events that followed the helicopter crash in January 2020.
Bryant has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County for emotional distress and alleged that several officers took and shared graphic photos of the victims from the crash site. The lawsuit has since become incredibly contentious, and the county is now trying to force Bryant and others to go through a psychiatric exam.
The deposition was tense at times, and Louis Miller, the attorney representing Los Angeles County in the case, “expressed remorse” for asking Bryant certain questions.
“It’s not harassment,” Miller said in the deposition, via The New York Times. “It’s just a lawsuit. And I’m so sorry to put you through this, but like I said at the beginning, I’ve got to do my job.”
Bryant didn't see it that way.
“I shouldn’t have to be going through this,” she replied, via The Times. “It’s not just a lawsuit.”
How did Vanessa Bryant learn of helicopter crash?
Bryant said in her deposition for the first time how she learned of the crash on the morning of Jan. 26, 2020.
She was at home with the couple's two youngest daughters when a family assistant knocked on her door around 11:30 a.m. The assistant said that Kobe and Gianna had been in a helicopter accident, but that five people had survived.
Initially, Vanessa thought that Kobe and Gianna were alive and helping other victims. She tried to call him, though, and started seeing notifications of Kobe’s death appear on her phone.
Bryant then scrambled to try and get to the crash site, per the report. She initially went to an airport to take a helicopter, but officials wouldn’t take her due to the weather. She ended up riding with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka to the Malibu sheriff’s station.
There, she said, “no one would answer” her questions about Kobe and Gianna. Eventually, she said a pastor, publicist and Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva entered the room, which is when Villanueva confirmed that Kobe and Gianna were among those killed.
Vanessa Bryant specifically asked for crash site secured from photos
According to The Times, Villanueva asked Vanessa Bryant if he could do anything for her after breaking the news that Kobe and Gianna had been killed.
“I said, ‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby pack, please make sure that no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area,’” she said in the deposition, via The Times. “And he said, ‘I will.’
“And I said, ‘No, I need you to get on the phone right now and I need you to make sure you secure the area.’"
Vanessa said that Villanueva then left the room. When he came back, Vanessa said that he reassured her that the area was secure.
The crash site wasn’t secured and it is is the whole premise of the lawsuit.
Bryant said that four deputies took and shared graphic photos of victims from the crash site, and named those deputies on Instagram. One officer allegedly showed photos from the crash at a bar and “boasted” about them. That led to another bar patron filing an official complaint with the sheriff’s department. Another deputy allegedly sent photos of the crash to a friend he plays video games with.
Bryant, in her lawsuit, said that photos spread to at least 10 members of the department within 48 hours of the crash, and that one deputy took up to 100 photos on his personal phone. She also said that Villanueva did not tell internal affairs about the incident with his deputies until after it had been made public, and that he allegedly told the deputies they wouldn’t face any discipline if they just deleted the photos.
Miller reportedly asked Bryant in the deposition several times to look at some of the graphic images and messages that were sent to her. Per the report, Bryant “put her hand in front of the camera and monitor instead of looking at the images.”
Vanessa Bryant: I want accountability
During the deposition, per the report, Miller asked Bryant what she was looking to get out of the lawsuit, including if she was seeking a monetary judgement.
Bryant said her goal was simple. She wants accountability.
“The impact of the helicopter crash was so damaging, I just don’t understand how someone can have no regard for life and compassion and, instead, choose to take that opportunity to photograph lifeless and helpless individuals for their own sick amusement,” she said, via The Times.
Miller pushed her again.
“Ms. Bryant, I understand your testimony about accountability,” he responded, via The Times. “My question to you is, are you also seeking monetary recovery, damages, money, in this lawsuit?”
Bryant said that isn’t her decision to make, but rather that it is up to a jury.
Bryant's deposition is one of several planned in the coming weeks. She has listed several witnesses, including Rob and Kristin Pelinka, musician Ciara Wilson, actress and host La La Anthony, R&B singer Monica Arnold, Kobe’s sister and Catherine Gasol, the wife of former Lakers star Pau Gasol.