Vanessa Bryant had a support system behind her as she headed to court on Monday.
Kobe Bryant’s widow, 40, was joined by friends Ciara and Monica, as well as 19-year-old daughter Natalia Diamante, at her trial over the graphic images of Kobe, their daughter Gianna and the other seven victims of the fatal January 2020. helicopter crash.
The team sat behind her during an internal officer’s deposition at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and even escorted her outside when she needed to take some time out.
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Shaquille O’Neal previously showed his support for Vanessa during an interview with Entertainment Tonightpraising her for “holding people accountable” and noting that she “couldn’t imagine what she’s going through.”
“I feel her,” he said. “We’ve never talked much [but] we always had respect for each other. Every time I see her it’s a hug, it’s a laugh.”
Michael Tullberg/Getty; Amy Sussman/Getty
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In her ongoing trial against Los Angeles County, Vanessa took the stand Friday to give an emotional three-hour testimony about what she experienced after the deaths of her husband and daughter.
She explained that she felt helpless when members of the LASD and other emergency personnel allegedly shared graphic images, causing her to “live in fear every day of being on social media and those photos showing up.”
“I remember not wanting to react because the girls were in the room,” Vanessa said, referring to the three other children she shares with Kobe — Capri, 3, Bianca, 5, and Natalia.
She added: “I left the house and I broke down and I cried and I just wanted to run down the block and scream. I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape what I’m feeling.”
Vanessa is suing Los Angeles County for emotional distress and mental anguish over the alleged images. At the time of the crash, Kobe and Gianna were traveling to a youth basketball game with seven others.
Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty
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Vanessa and Chris Chester, who lost his wife Sarah and 13-year-old daughter Payton in the crash, allege that photos of the victims’ bodies were shared publicly on at least 28 devices belonging to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and more than a dozen first responders. correspondents.
During his testimony, Chris recalled learning about the crash while driving to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station after messages to Peyton and Sarah went unanswered.
“A lot of things were going through my mind, but I thought I was going to a hospital,” she explained, believing that Peyton and Sarah would be injured but still alive. But the station was disturbingly quiet, he said, and “I was starting to get an eerie feeling.” He was taken to an area with the other families, including Vanessa, where they were eventually told there were no survivors.
“It was heavy,” he said. “My life will never be the same.”
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Chris said he was told all photos taken by the medical examiner and the National Transportation Safety Board – which investigate plane crashes – would be safe. But he said he was in disbelief after hearing that members of the sheriff’s department had taken and publicly shared photos of the crash scene.
Since then, Chris said, he has suffered great anxiety at the thought of images being leaked to the public. He also suffered from depression since the accident, she said.
During the trial, former Los Angeles Fire Chief Brian Jordan said the trauma of seeing the remains of the crash prompted him to retire. Jordan is accused of taking graphic, carefully cropped photos of body parts on stage, but testified that he only did as he was instructed.
“It was scary and that’s what made me stop working,” he said.
LA County had tried to dismiss Vanessa’s lawsuit in December 2021, but a judge denied their request. In her statement filed in response to a motion, Vanessa said she felt “immense pain and agony.”
The January 2020 helicopter crash also claimed the lives of 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, 46, John Altobelli, 56, Christina Mauser, 38, and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.