Things That Matter

In Heartbreaking Testimony, Vanessa Bryant Reveals That She Learned Of Kobe’s Death Through Social Media Notifications

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After all she’s been through, Vanessa Bryant is still having to relive the painful day in January 2020 when she lost her husband and child in a helicopter crash. Currently, Vanessa Bryant is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for emotional distress and negligence after first responders shared graphic photos of the crash’s victims with the public.

In heartbreaking testimony obtained by The New York Times, Vanessa Bryant revealed that she learned of Kobe and Gigi Bryant’s death through social media alerts.

“[Our assistant] told me that there was an accident and that there were five survivors,” Vanessa said. “And I asked her if Gianna and Kobe were okay. And she said she wasn’t sure. She didn’t know.”

Vanessa tried to call Kobe multiple times to no avail. Then, when Vanessa was on the phone with her mother, her phone started blowing up.

“As soon as I was on the phone with my mom, I was holding onto my phone, because obviously I was trying to call my husband back, and all these notifications started popping up on my phone, saying, ‘RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe,’” she revealed.

In the testimony, Vanessa Bryant also revealed the torture of waiting to hear the fate of her husband and daughter with an uncooperative police department.

Bryant revealed that the Los Angeles Police Department wouldn’t tell her any information over the phone. They insisted that she come to the police station, even though she lives 40 miles away in Orange County.

Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka ended up driving both Vanessa and Natalia Bryant to the Malibu police station. But when she arrived at the police station, she was still left in the dark. “I kept asking if my husband and my daughter were okay. No one would answer me,” Bryant said. Eventually, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva finally revealed the news to her that Kobe and Gigi Bryant had died in the crash.

After Sheriff Villanueva broke the terrible news to Mrs. Bryant, he asked her if there was anything he could do for her. Vanessa Bryant testified that she told him: “If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area.” To which Sheriff Villanueva responded: “All is good. The area is secure. There’s an umbrella over the area.”

But later, Vanessa Bryant discovered that first responders had, indeed, taken photos of Kobe and Gigi Bryant’s remains and shared them with others.

“[Kobe and Gianna] suffered a lot,” Bryant said in her testimony. “And if their clothes represent the condition of their bodies, I cannot imagine how someone could be callous and have no regard for them or our friends, and just share the images as if they were animals on a street.”

“I do not want my little girls or I to ever have to see their remains in that matter,” she explained. “Nor do I think it’s right that the photographs were taken in the first place because it’s already tough enough that I have to experience this heartache and this loss.”

The lawsuit that Vanessa Bryant filed against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department alleges that the graphic photos that the first responders took “served no business necessity” and “only served to appeal to baser instincts and desires for what amounted to visual gossip.” This opinion* lines up with criminal justice expert Joseph Giacalone’s opinion, who told the Los Angeles Times that taking and sharing unauthorized photos of a crime* scene is a “cardinal sin in law enforcement.”

Now, Vanessa Bryant says that she wants the Sheriff’s Department to be held accountable for the further emotional distress they have caused her and her family.

“I don’t think it’s fair that I’m here today having to fight for accountability,” she said. “Because no one should ever have to endure this type of pain and fear of their family members. The pictures getting released, this is not okay.”

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