LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shared graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others, a law enforcement source familiar with the situation confirmed to CBS Los Angeles Thursday.
That source said they had not seen the images, but said they were trying to track down the origin of the photographs.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the photos were of the crash scene and the victims’ remains, though it was not immediately clear if the deputies took the photos or if they received them from somebody else. One source told the Times that the photos were shared with other officials who had nothing to do with the investigation.
On Friday, TMZ reported that the deputies who responded to the crash scene took the photos that included the victims’ remains and said one of them was a trainee deputy who tried to impress a girl at a bar a few days after the crash by showing her the photos. According to TMZ, a bartender overheard that conversation and filed an online complaint with the sheriff’s department.
“We know that the (National Transportation Safety Board) is investigating this matter, and we know that there would be no reason for a deputy or law enforcement officer at that time to take photos of the crash scene,” Scott DeFoe, a retired Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, said.
DeFoe, who is also a use of force and police procedures expert, said if the allegations are true, it’s more than just a violation of the badge, the oath of office and public trust.
“You can’t go to a homicide scene or crime scene and then take photos of people and distribute those photos, it would have to be for evidentiary purposes only,” he said. “You can’t do that, because there is criminal liability there and obviously civil liability.”
The sheriff’s department released a statement on Facebook that said, in part:
“The facts surrounding these allegations are currently under investigation, as are the effectiveness of existing policies and procedures. The Sheriff is deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act. A thorough investigation will be conducted by the Department, with the number one priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families.”
TMZ also reported that the photos were passed around by members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department said, while it has no confirmed allegation of misconduct, a review of reports that firefighters also shared the images was underway. In a statement to CBSLA, the department said it will “thoroughly investigate any allegations of misconduct and take swift and appropriate action consistent with our standards and professional conduct.”
The helicopter crashed into a Calabasas hillside late last month in heavy fog, killing the retired Laker legend, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others on their way to a youth basketball game. The other victims were Christina Mauser; Payton and Sarah Chester; John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; and pilot Ara Zobayan.