Update (September 16, 2020): Vanessa Bryant clapped back at L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva following his insensitive comments during a radio interview on Monday. 

Villanueva appeared on Los Angeles’ 790 KABC Radio and demanded LeBron James double the potential reward for information related to a shooting on Saturday that left two officers in the hospital.  

There is currently a $175,000 reward in place for information on the shooter, but Villanueva said James specifically should contribute.

“This challenge is to LeBron James. I want you to match that and double that reward. Because I know you care about law enforcement. You expressed a very, very interesting statement about your perspective on race relations and on officer-involved shootings and the impact it has on the African American community, and I appreciate that,” Villanueva said. 

“But likewise, we need to appreciate the respect for life goes across professions, across races, creeds. And I’d like to see LeBron James step up to the plate and double that,” he added.

The sheriff's comments offended many people for his callousness and strange targeting of James. 

But Bryant was particularly incensed by Villanueva's comments because of his role in her current lawsuit against the department for their actions after her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash earlier this year, as Blavity previously reported

At least eight officers in Villanueva’s department are accused of taking photos of the crash and the bodies, sharing them with friends and even with dates. 

On Instagram, Bryant shared photos of two tweets that called out Villanueva’s hypocrisy. 

“How can he talk about trusting the system? His sheriff's dept. couldn't be trusted to secure Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash scene, his deputies took and shared graphic photos of crash victims. Vanessa Bryant is suing them,” the tweet said

“He shouldn't be challenging LeBron James to match a reward or ‘to step up to the plate.’ He couldn’t even ‘step up to the plate’ and hold his deputies accountable for photographing dead children,” a second tweet that she shared said

Bryant’s lawsuit in May said Villanueva and other senior department officials only started an investigation into the photos after it became public that officers were sharing the photos.

"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. 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," Bryant’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit, which was filed in May.

A bartender filed a citizens complaint saying she was working one night after the crash and heard a deputy talking loudly about the photos before showing them to a date, according to TMZ.

Villanueva personally faced withering criticism for downplaying the photos and allegedly telling deputies that he would not start an investigation if they deleted all the photos they took. 

"Rather than formally investigate the allegations to identify the extent of dissemination and contain the spread of the photos, Department leadership reportedly told deputies that they would face no discipline if they just deleted the photos," the filing read. 

"Mrs. Bryant was distressed to learn that the Department did not initiate a formal investigation until after the L.A. Times broke the story on or about February 28, and that the Department had taken few if any steps to contain the spread of the photos,” the filing continued.

Original (March 3, 2020): Vanessa Bryant released a powerful statement about Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officers allegedly sharing photographs of the crash site where Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died on January 26. 

For weeks, rumors swirled about deputies from the Lost Hills Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department sharing graphic photos of the helicopter crash site with each other and reporters, The Los Angeles Times reported.

But on Friday, the situation reached new depths when the LA Times and TMZ reported that a furious bartender filed a citizen complaint after overhearing an officer gleefully sharing photos of the crash site at a bar in Norwalk.

"He tried to impress a girl by showing her the photos," the bartender told police, according to sources who spoke with TMZ

In another report from the LA Times, the Sheriff’s Department allegedly tried to deal with the situation outside of official channels, quietly asking deputies to delete any photos in an attempt to hide the situation from the press and the Bryant family.

Senior officials allegedly told deputies that if they confessed to taking the photos and deleted them, all would be forgiven and they would not be penalized in any way, according to the LA Times. 

On Monday, Bryant released a powerful statement on Instagram slamming the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for "inexcusable and deplorable" conduct.






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CORRECTED: The department at issue is the Los Angeles County Fire Dept (LACoFD) NOT the LAFD KANSAS CITY, Mo.--(repost: BUSINESS WIRE)--Statement From Gary C. Robb, Legal Counsel on Behalf of His Client, Vanessa Bryant: Our client, Vanessa Bryant, is absolutely devastated by allegations that deputies from the Lost Hills Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department publicly disseminated photos from the helicopter crash site. Mrs. Bryant personally went to the Sheriff’s office on January 26th and requested that the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers. This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims, and their families. 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 honor those requests. First responders should be trustworthy. It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LACOFD 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. We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated. We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents. Mrs. Bryant is grateful to the individual who filed an online complaint exposing these acts of injustice, and for the choice to protect human dignity. We ask that anyone else who has information as to the facts underlying these alleged grievous and shameful incidents contact our office at 816–474-8080 or email via www.robbrobb.com

A post shared by Vanessa Bryant 🦋 (@vanessabryant) on


According to the statement, Bryant went directly to the sheriff’s office on January 26 and asked that the area around the crash site be designated a no-fly zone to keep photographers away. 

"Our client, Vanessa Bryant, is absolutely devastated by allegations that deputies from the Lost Hills Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department publicly disseminated photos from the helicopter crash site. This was of critical importance to her as she desired to protect the dignity of all the victims and their families. 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 honor those requests," the statement read.


"First responders should be trustworthy. It is inexcusable and deplorable that some deputies from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s substation, other surrounding substations and LACOFD 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. We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated. We are requesting an Internal Affairs investigation of these alleged incidents," the statement continued. 

When the LA Times story started to gain traction on social media, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officially opened an investigation into the incident. However, when officers were pressed about the citizen's complaint before the story came out, they claimed to not know anything about it.

The bartender's complaint was sent online to the sheriff’s information bureau, and sources told the newspaper that the head of the bureau, Capt. Jorge Valdez, personally handled it. Yet in an interview on Wednesday, he told the LA Times that "he was unaware of any complaint” and said police were not trying to cover up the controversy.

"There was no order given to delete any photographs,” Valdez said. 

Typically, a citizen complaint of that nature would trigger an internal investigation and a formal process would start, according to the LA Times.

Brian Williams, executive director of the Civilian Oversight Commission, told the newspaper that his organization was going to grill officials during a meeting with the sheriff’s department this week.

“Every police department struggles with the same thing, where people take photos and they’re not evidence. So that’s a practice we have to make sure that everyone walks away, and there is no evidence other than the official photos of evidence that are taken for criminal purposes,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in response to the controversy. 

In a later statement sent to the LA Times, Villanueva said he was “deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act" and that the department was starting "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.”

In addition to the complaint from the bartender, other sources told the newspaper that they had seen photos from the crash that were being shared by first responders.

Los Angeles police officers have long struggled with similar situations where deputies share unauthorized photos with each other or with the press. One of the most notable was when an officer was fired in 2009 for sharing photos of Rihanna's face after a physical altercation with Chris Brown. Officers also faced massive criticism for leaking audio of Mel Gibson's racist rant against Black and Jewish people during his arrest in 2007.  

Bryant has already filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company behind the tragic crash, as Blavity previously reported, and urged others with more information about the officers' sharing of photos to contact her lawyer.

"Mrs. Bryant is grateful to the individual who filed an online complaint exposing these acts of injustice, and for the choice to protect human dignity. We ask that anyone else who has information as to the facts underlying these alleged grievous and shameful incidents contact our office at 816-474-8080 or email," the statement read.