LA cops tried to cover up Kobe Bryant crash photo leak scandal by ordering deputies to delete them: Report
The Sheriff's Department has launched an investigation after it was reported that deputies had taken photos of the crash and were sharing them
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department allegedly tacitly ordered deputies to delete any photos of the Kobe Bryant chopper crash scene in an attempt to keep the matter under wraps after a citizen complained that a deputy trainee was trying to impress women at a Norwalk bar by showing off the gruesome images—which reportedly also showed remains of the victims.
Sources close to the investigation told LA Times that such a complaint would normally trigger a formal inquiry or even a full-blown internal affairs investigation.
However, deputies were instead ordered to report to the sheriff's Lost Hills station just days after the January 26 crash and told that they would not face any disciplinary measures if they came clean and deleted the photos, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The sources raised concerns that the directive to delete the photos could amount to destruction of evidence.
The Sheriff's Department launched an investigation shortly after The Times reported that deputies had taken photos of the crash and were sharing them.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva did not directly answer queries whether it was him who had ordered the deletion of the said photos. “Every police department struggles with the same thing, where people take photos and they’re not evidence," he said in an interview on Wednesday.
"So that’s a practice we have to make sure that everyone walks away, and there is no evidence other than the official photos of evidence that are taken for criminal purposes.”
Capt. Jorge Valdez, the head of the sheriff's information bureau where the citizen's complaint was sent, said in an interview Wednesday that he was “unaware of any complaint” and “there was no order given to delete any photographs.”
According to sources, Valdez was among those who handled the complaint.
However, the department issued a statement on Friday noting that Sheriff Villanueva is “deeply disturbed at the thought deputies could allegedly engage in such an insensitive act.”
“A thorough investigation will be conducted by the department, with the No. 1 priority of protecting the dignity and privacy of the victims and their families,” the department said.
Meanwhile, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs -- the union that represents deputies -- said in a statement on Friday that "as with all investigations, we will aggressively represent our members and preserve their rights."