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The Los Angeles County Sheriff on Monday said he ordered numerous deputies who took gruesome photos of the crash site where Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed to delete the images from their personal devices.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he ordered eight deputies in total to delete images of the scene of the crash, which occurred Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California.
“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva told NBC News. “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And, we’re content that those involved did that.”
The sheriff’s department previously said the allegation that deputies were sharing the gruesome pictures both within the stations and in public were being probed, but no specifics were addressed.
On Monday, Villanueva confirmed pictures were being shared.
“We’ve communicated in no uncertain terms that the behavior is inexcusable,” he told NBC News. “I mean, people are grieving for the loss of their loved ones. To have that on top of what they’ve already gone through is unconscionable. And, to think any member of our department would be involved in that.”
It is unclear if the deputies will be punished.
“Had we done the original, usual routine, which was relieve everybody of duty and everybody lawyers up and all that, that would increase the odds 10-fold that those photos would have somehow made their way into the public domain. And that’s definitely what we do not want,” Villanueva told NBC News.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, whose teenage daughter Gianna was also onboard the helicopter, blasted the deputies for taking and sharing the photos.
“This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Gary C. Robb, said in a statement. “We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated.”
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