It was a normal weekend morning. Vanessa Bryant was left at home with her two young daughters, while the oldest had gone to a college prep class and her husband, Kobe Bryant, was taking their daughter Gianna to a basketball game. But that January 26, 2020, at 11:30 a.m., the family assistant knocked on the door. The helicopter in which Kobe and Gianna were traveling had suffered an accident, although there were five survivors, said the assistant, among whom Vanessa Bryant believed were her husband and 13-year-old daughter. Then she picked up the phone to call her husband and was faced with the worst scenario: several alerts on her mobile announced the death of Kobe. This is how Vanessa herself has told the lawyer defending Los Angeles County in the lawsuit that the widow of the former player of the Lakers filed against the sheriff for disseminating images of the accident and whose testimony has published The New York Times.
“My life will never be the same without my husband and daughter,” said Bryant, who a year ago decided to file charges against the county and some of its employees and administrations after having suffered emotional stress, according to her, due to of the photographs of human remains taken and shared by the emergency services. Bryant’s statement comes at a time when Kobe’s widow is questioning whether the county can conduct the plaintiffs’ independent medical examinations that include psychiatric evaluations. In fact, she herself has expressed feeling uncomfortable with the lawyer’s questions during her testimony. “It is not harassment,” said Louis Miller, the Los Angeles County attorney, at one point during the interrogation. “It is just a lawsuit. And I am very sorry to have put you through this, but as I said at the beginning, I have to do my job “it has continued. “I shouldn’t have to go through this,” Bryant replied.
According to testimony given by Bryant, after he was prevented from flying to the crash site, he met with Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Laker manager and Kobe’s agent during his NBA career. Pelinka, the player’s wife said, drove them, in a journey that lasted one hour and 45 minutes, to the sheriff’s office in Malibu, near where the events occurred. Once in the office, “no one wanted to answer” the questions about Kobe and Gianna. After a long wait, a pastor and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva entered, arriving with a publicist. Bryant said he wanted privacy and asked the publicist to leave the room. It was then that Villanueva confirmed the death of her husband and middle daughter and asked if he could do something for her. “If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure no one takes pictures of them. Secure the area, ”says Bryant who asked him. Villanueva replied that he would, but she insisted. “No, I need you to get on the phone right now and make sure the area is secured.” According to her version, she affirms that the constable confirmed that he had done so.
During the interrogation, Louis Miller even asked Bryant if he was seeking financial compensation from the defendant, but she says she just wants the emergency crews who took photographs to be held accountable. “The impact of the helicopter crash was so damaging, I just don’t understand how someone can have no respect for life and compassion and instead choose to take that opportunity to photograph lifeless and defenseless people for their own sick amusement. ”, He alleges. In his attempt to prevent unnecessary details of the event from being released, Bryant has confessed that he even recovered the clothes that Kobe and Gianna were wearing at the time of the accident. “They suffered a lot,” Bryant insisted during the statement. “If their clothes represent the state of their bodies, I cannot imagine how someone can be so insensitive and inconsiderate with them and with their friends and simply share the images as if they were animals in the street.”
Bryant has not been the only one, according to his words, who has suffered emotional stress as a result of the event. The athlete’s wife assures that other friends and colleagues such as Paul Gasol’s wife, Catherine Gasol, Rob and Kristin Pelinka, the pop star Ciara Wilson or the player’s sister, Sharia Washington, have also had to face the same process and are summoned to testify.