In court on Tuesday, a sheriff’s deputy testified that he sent out pictures of the Kobe Bryant crash site during a video game session. According to TMZ, the graphic images were exchanged during an online game of Call of Duty.
The deputy is Michael Russell of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, who stated the photos were sent shortly after the crash happened.
Russell testified he was passed the pictures from fellow deputy Joey Cruz before going on to game with Santa Clarita deputy Ben Sanchez. Russell stated he had the pictures and sent the images to Cruz after asking did he want to see them.
Russell admitted to wrongdoing and stated his punishment from the Sheriff’s office was a simple write-up.
Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters are currently in court for taking pictures of the remains of Kobe Bryant and victims of the 2020 helicopter crash. According to ESPN, In his opening statement in the U.S. District Court, Vanessa Bryant’s attorney Luis Li stated the images were used as “visual gossip” and “for a laugh.”
“They were shared by deputies playing video games,” Li said. “They were shared repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them.”
In response, an attorney for the deputies stated the images were taken in an effort to share information that could save lives at the scene.
During the opening statements, Vanessa Bryant repeatedly cried, lasting minutes after a break. Her attorney stated the county “poured salt in an open wound and rubbed it in.”
Li would also show a video of an off-duty deputy drinking at a bar and showing the photos to a bartender. Another image showed the men laughing together. The photos were also viewed by firefighters two weeks later at an awards banquet.
That deputy was Cruz, who admitted to sharing the images with a bartender, stating the stress of the situation led to the share as he attempted to relieve stress. He admitted remorse for doing so.
County lawyer J. Mira Hashmall states since the images never made it to social media, the officers were simply doing their job.
The county has already agreed to a $2.5 million payment to settle a similar case of another victim of the crash. The case is expected to continue through next week.