On the witness stand in her federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County, Vanessa Bryant recalled being at home with her family, breastfeeding her 7-month-old daughter Capri, when she learned of a Los Angeles Times report about county sheriff’s deputies sharing the graphic photos.
“I just remember not wanting to react cause the girls were in the room,” she testified, her voice rising with emotion. “I said, ‘I can’t do this.” … And I bolted out of the house and I ran to the side of the house so the girls couldn’t see me. I wanted to run… down the block and just scream. I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape what I feel.”
Along with Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter also died in the crash, Bryant filed a federal civil lawsuit alleging Los Angeles County invaded their privacy and inflicted emotional distress by not properly containing the spread of the photos which, according to witness testimony, show not just helicopter wreckage but the mangled bodies of the victims.
The trial has so far seen testimony by several law enforcement personnel, including a deputy who testified he showed graphic images from the scene while at a bar, another deputy who said he shared photos while playing a video game, a deputy who sent dozens of photos to someone he didn’t know, and a fire official who showed the images to other personnel during an awards ceremony cocktail hour.
Chester testified on Thursday, saying he lives in fear that the graphic photos taken of his loved ones’ bodies may resurface one day.
Chester took the stand after several days of testimony from the law enforcement officials — some of whom offered apologies, detailed the graphic nature of the photos, and explained why they were taken and shared and why orders were given to delete them.
Vanessa Bryant has been in the courtroom listening to the testimony of every witness except the coroner. She walked out of the courtroom abruptly as a bartender testified about seeing photos.
As the final witness for the prosecution, Bryant’s testimony is expected to last around three hours.
If time allows, the defense is expected to call LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva as its first witness, to be followed by LA County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone.
Kobe Bryant, 41, and Gianna Bryant, 13, were among nine people killed in the January 26, 2020, helicopter crash on a hillside in Calabasas, California.
They were flying to a girls basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks when the helicopter went down, leaving no survivors.