Vanessa’s family aide Bryant knocked on the door of their Orange County home last year and broke the news that a helicopter carrying her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna had crashed.
“She told me there was an accident and that there were five left alive,” Vanessa Bryant said earlier this month. “And I asked her if everything was okay with Janna and Kobe. And she said she wasn’t sure. “
Bryant called her husband, the former Lakers legend, but there was no answer. She clung to the idea that there were five left as she demanded more information. Bryant remembered calling his mother and asking her to come and see her youngest two children.
“I tried to call my husband back,” she said, “and all these notifications started popping up on my phone saying, ‘Rest in peace, Kobe.’ Rest in peace, Kobe. Rest in peace, Kobe. “
It will be hours before Bryant receives an official announcement of the deaths of her husband and daughter, according to recently released testimony in which the wife of the late NBA Hall of Fame player detailed the tragic day. Vanessa Bryant’s attorneys filed a partially edited excerpt of her testimony in court this week as part of her lawsuit against Los Angeles County.
Last year, Bryant filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, alleging that she and her family suffered severe emotional distress after learning that Los Angeles County sheriffs’ deputies took pictures and then shared gruesome photos of the crash site where they died. her husband, daughter and seven others.
But the case between Bryant and Los Angeles County has escalated in recent weeks, including over Bryant’s long-awaited testimony.
Bryant’s legal team is trying to get Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby to get it. Meanwhile, county lawyers are trying to get the widow to undergo an independent medical examination before a trial scheduled for February 2022 at a federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
County attorneys argue that Bryant cannot suffer such severe distress over crash photos that she has never seen and that have never been released to the public, and they want their arguments to be backed up by a psychiatric exam.
“While the district deeply sympathizes with the plaintiffs over their loss, their wealth and notoriety does not exempt them from disclosure rules,” district lawyers wrote asking for a psychiatric evaluation.
Bryant’s lawyers fired back, stating that an invasive medical examination was unnecessary and that her suffering was clearly evident from her own testimony.
“The county’s tactic is just a brutal attempt to get victims to pay for prosecution,” Bryant’s team of lawyers wrote in a court appeal. “Rather than taking responsibility for what the sheriff himself described as ‘totally unacceptable’ and ‘disgusting’, the district decided to do its best to make the case as painful as possible.”
Bryant’s attorneys point to her own words during her testimony on October 12, in which she was interrogated by Skip Miller, a prominent Century City attorney whose boutique firm was hired to defend Los Angeles County.
Bryant detailed that after a flurry of “Rest in Peace Kobe” notices, she went to fetch her daughter Natalia, who was attending college entrance exams that morning.
“I told her that Dad and Gigi had an accident. Not to worry. I’m sure they’re okay, because there are five survivors, ”Bryant recalls, telling his daughter. “And I’m sure Dad and Gigi are okay. I just felt, I knew that they would help people. “
Bryant recalls rushing to the airport, where she tried to board a helicopter to quickly fly from Orange County to Calabasas, where a helicopter crashed with her husband, daughter and seven other people.
This plan was quickly thwarted, and the owner of one of the helicopters told Bryant, “I can’t fly with you. The weather conditions are very bad. “
From the airport, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka drove Bryant to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Malibu Lost Hills for nearly two hours.
“I kept asking if everything was okay with my husband and daughter,” she said. “Nobody would answer me.”
Bryant described a poorly prepared and chaotic scene at the sheriff’s station, where she was sent to different rooms.
“Then they took us to this little storage room, where we waited and waited. One sheriff was present. And I asked him: what is going on? Why doesn’t anyone tell me what’s going on? ”
Eventually, Sheriff Alex Villanueva walked in to greet Bryant, accompanied by the pastor and another woman who later introduced herself as a publicist.
“I asked her to leave because I wanted privacy,” Bryant said.
Villanueva told Bryant about the deaths of her husband and daughter and then asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“And I said, if you can’t get my husband and child back, please make sure no one is taking pictures of them. Please secure the area, ”Bryant recalled.
Villanueva assured her that he would keep the area safe, prompting Bryant to make a more direct and compelling request.
“I said: no, I need you to call right now, and I need you to make sure that you are guarding the territory,” she recalled.
Villanueva left, then returned and, according to Bryant, told her: “It’s okay. The area is safe.
But weeks after the fatal disaster, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times revealed that MPs had shared grim photographs of the scene.
Bryant testified that the clothes of her dead daughter and husband suggested the condition of their bodies – and the gruesome scene that would be contained in the depictions of the crash sites.
“I have the clothes of a husband and daughter. And I can say that they … they suffered a lot, ”Bryant said. “And if their clothes reflect the state of their bodies, I can’t imagine how someone could be so callous and not respect them or our friends, but just share images as if they were animals on the street.”
On many occasions in testimony, Miller, an attorney representing Los Angeles County, apologized for hours of interrogation.
“I’m really sorry you had to go through this, but as I said at the beginning, I have to do my job,” Miller said.
“I don’t have to go through this. It’s not just a lawsuit, ”Bryant replied.
“I agree,” Miller said. “But you filed a lawsuit.”
Bryant was blunt: “I want accountability.”