Vanessa Bryant testified Friday that she was just beginning to grieve the loss of her husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna when she was faced with the new horror of learning that sheriff’s deputies and firefighters had shot and shared photos of their bodies at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed them.
“I felt like I wanted to run, run down the block and scream,” she said, her tears turning to sobs and her voice quickening. “It was like the feeling of wanting to run down a pier and jump into the water. The problem is that I can’t escape. I can’t escape from my body.
During his three hours on the witness stand in federal court in Los Angeles, where he is suing Los Angeles County for invasion of privacy over the images, Bryant said he had struggled to overcome public and private memorials of his loved ones. dear and seven others. who were killed on January 26, 2020, and she thought she was ready to really start the grieving process about a month later.
She was with friends and her surviving daughters, and holding her 7-month-old baby, when she got a call about a Los Angeles Times story on photos from the crash site.
“I ran out of the house and around to the side so my daughters couldn’t see,” she said. “I was surprised again, devastated, hurt. I trusted them. I trusted that they would not do these things.”
Evidence presented at trial showed that a sheriff’s deputy showed a photo of Bryant’s body to a bartender while he was drinking, prompting an official complaint from another man drinking nearby, and that firefighters shared them with each other at a bartender’s banquet. awards. Others shared them with their spouses.
A county attorney said the photos were taken only because they were essential to assessing the site moments after the crash, and when Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva learned they were being shared, he demanded they be deleted. all.
No photos surfaced publicly, but Vanessa Bryant said she constantly worries that some still do.
“I live in fear every day of being on social networks and these appear,” he testified. “I live in fear that my daughters are on social networks and they appear.”
She said the thought keeps her up at night as she lies in bed with her three- and five-year-old son, sometimes giving her panic attacks where she can’t breathe.
Under cross-examination by J Mira Hashmall, the attorney representing Los Angeles County at trial, Bryant testified that he had not received any medical diagnosis of panic attacks or any mental health disorders, nor had he taken any medication for them.
He said he had talked to a therapist for about 18 months after the accident, but hadn’t since.
“I feel like sometimes it helps,” Bryant said, “but sometimes it’s completely exhausting.” Hashmall spent much of his 90-minute cross-examination discussing the business roles Bryant now plays, including serving as president of her husband’s multimedia company Granity Studios, overseeing the publication of a book he wrote and helping to finish and publish another, spearheading the foundation started for Kobe and Gianna, and several other companies were established.
Hashmall suggested that Bryant’s ability to do all of this meant that she was functioning well and was not overwhelmed by fear and anxiety.
“It sounds like, on top of everything else, you’re juggling a business empire,” Hashmall said at one point.
“For me, it’s a labor of love,” said Bryant, who remained calm and collected during cross-examination.
She cried frequently and laughed from time to time during the interrogation of her lawyer Luis Li, who asked her to describe her life with her husband, “proud father of a girl” and their daughters.
“He was such a beautiful and devoted father,” she said.
Bryant chronicled the day of the crash, her heartbreak and her frustration trying to find out if her husband and daughter were still alive after initially hearing from an attendee that there were five survivors.
She described Sheriff Villanueva entering a waiting room at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and confirming that her husband and daughter had been killed. He asked her if there was anything he could do for her.
“I told him, if you can’t get my babies back, please secure the area,” Bryant said. “I’m worried about the paparazzi.”
“Did the sheriff tell you that one of his deputies had already gone up the hill to take close-up pictures of the accident victims?” Li asked.
“No,” Bryant replied.
During cross-examination, Hashmall said the officer, Doug Johnson, who walked through rough terrain into the hills in northern Los Angeles County to the crash site and took the photos that were later shared, was only trying to use them to assess the situation.
“You can understand why I would want the same information as you,” Hashmall said.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to take close-up photos of people to determine how many people are on a plane,” Bryant replied. “I think it might have counted.” Bryant’s side rested his case after his testimony, which came on the eighth day of the trial.