LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A bill that would make it a misdemeanor for first responders to share accident and crime scene photos in the wake of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash has passed through its first policy committee and is expected to get support Wednesday from Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
AB-2655 was introduced earlier this month by Assemblyman Mike A. Gipson, D-Carson, after eight Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies had been confirmed to be involved in taking or sharing photos of the helicopter crash site where the Lakers star, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others died.
The bill would carry a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The photos that were shared were reportedly of the crash site and victims’ remains, and had been shared by a deputy trainee trying to impress a woman at a bar a few days after the crash.
At the time, Villanueva said his department had a policy against taking and sharing photos of crime scenes, but that the policy did not apply to accident scenes. Villanueva has testified for the bill, and says he is pleased that it has passed its first legislative hurdle.
“It provides something very important,” Villanueva said. “It’s peace of mind for the families, next-of-kin of those who have perished in an accident scene so we can ensure that first responders are going to behave responsibly, they’re gonna honor their privacy, and protect it, and it gives us remedies to enforce this, whereas policies alone were not sufficient.”
However, a watchdog group reportedly wants to subpoena Villanueva over his response to the scandal, and he has been accused of ordering the photos be destroyed to avoid bad publicity.
“Once the information is developed and its done, all the decisions have been made, we’ve dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s, we’re gonna make the entire investigation public, so everyone can read it for themselves. And we’re also going to post it online,” Villanueva said.
Bryant, his daughter, nine others were on their way to a youth basketball game on Jan. 26. when the helicopter they were in crashed into a Calabasas hillside. Also killed in the crash were Christina Mauser, Payton and Sarah Chester; John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; and pilot Ara Zobayan.