Cruz was a deputy trainee days after the helicopter crash when he was captured on surveillance footage showing his phone to a bartender, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Kobe Bryant and Gianna were on their way to a youth basketball tournament with friends, their family members and a coach when the helicopter crashed into a hillside January 26, 2020. There were no survivors. The deceased were Gianna Bryant’s friends and teammates, Alyssa Altobelli, 14, and Payton Chester, 13, their parents, John Altobelli, 56, Keri Altobelli, 46, and Sarah Chester, 45, coach Christina Mauser, 39, and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.
Here’s what you need to know:
Cruz Wiped His Phone of All of Its Data & a Lawsuit Alleges He Showed Graphic Photos of the Basketball Legend’s Body
The Los Angeles Times reported that there was little evidence remaining of the graphic images the suit alleges were displayed in the days after the grisly helicopter crash. Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, broke down in tears during opening statements of the trial. Her attorney, Luis Li, contends that Los Angeles officials sharing photos with no legitimate purpose was a longstanding problem, according to a statement printed by the Times.
“For decades, the County has tolerated the practice of officers and first responders taking and sharing pictures of deceased human beings for no legitimate purpose,” Li said. “This custom and practice robs grieving families of their Constitutional right to protect the privacy and dignity of their loved ones. We look forward to presenting our case in Court.”
The Times reported that the sheriff’s department did not request an internal affairs investigation until the day after the newspaper reported on the allegations of photo sharing. The sheriff had been made aware of a complaint filed about the graphic photos, the Times reported.
“The sheriff, through his subordinates, promised the deputies involved that they wouldn’t be punished if they came clean and deleted the photos,” the Times reported.
The Investigation Into the Photos Began When a Person Filed a Complaint Saying a Deputy Was Showing Photos of the Crash Carnage at a Bar
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department received a complaint three days after the helicopter crash, saying that a young deputy had been showing graphic images of the helicopter crash at the Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk, according to the Los Angeles Times. The complaint was filed by Ralph Mendez, who was sitting near Cruz that night. While the newspaper reported Mendez did not hear the deputy’s conversation with the bartender, the bartender told Mendez that the deputy had just showed him an image of Bryant’s remains.
Surveillance footage showed Cruz displaying his phone to the bartender, the Times reported, and the deputy appeared to make “a slashing motion with his arm,” the newspaper said. Cruz had only been on patrol for two months at the time. Mendez submitted a complaint online and described the deputy.
“There was a deputy at Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk who was at the Kobe Bryant crash site showing pictures of his … body,” Mendez wrote, according to the Times. “He was working the day the helicopter went down. … He is a young deputy, shaved head with tattoos on his arm. …”