A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy said he shared grisly photos from the site of a helicopter crash where NBA star Kobe Bryant was killed with a fellow deputy while the two were playing the popular video game Call Of Duty.
Deputy Michael Russell told an L.A. federal jury on Aug 16 that he texted photos from the crash site to his video game buddy a day after the deadly accident. He also admitted that he submitted several inaccurate statements during an internal department investigation.
Russell testified during the fifth day of trial in an invasion-of-privacy and negligence lawsuit filed against Los Angeles County and the sheriff’s department by Bryant’s widow Vanessa and Orange County financial adviser Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter were among those killed in the crash. They are seeking unspecified monetary damages.
Russell said he shared the photos “in order to get through the stresses of the day before”. He admitted he had no business reason for doing so.
Bryant, widely regarded as one of the best professional basketball players of all time who spent his 20-year career playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, was killed with his daughter and seven others when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in cloudy weather in January 2020.
The jury has heard during the trial that deputies and fire department personnel shared photos from the crash site, depicting remains of the victims, with friends and colleagues. The jury has also heard the sheriff’s department had no policy at the time on the sharing of such photographs.
In the internal department investigation over the incident, Russell submitted a statement claiming he shared the pictures while he was working and sent the photos without mentioning that remains were depicted in them. That was inaccurate, he told the jury.
“I made mistakes,” he said.
The sheriff’s department didn’t take any disciplinary action against Russell. – Bloomberg