Kobe Bryant fans at the crash site in late January. A state legislative bill recently passed the California Senate in response to controversy produced by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, who took unsolicited photographs of the victims of the helicopter crash that killed Lakers star Kobe Bryant and eight others in January.
Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) introduced Assembly Bill 2655, endorsed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, making it a misdemeanor for a first responder to take unauthorized photographs of the deceased.
“With AB 2655, I took on a great responsibility to ensure that those who are trusted to secure scenes of great disaster and death are not abusing their power for personal pleasure,” Gipson said in a public statement issued on his website. “My heart truly goes out to their loved ones who have continued to grieve such unimaginable loss, as well as to others who have endured similar pain.”
Shortly after 41-year-old Bryant was killed in the crash in the Santa Monica Mountains on Jan. 26, photos emerged of the wreckage, including graphic photographs of some of the crash victims. A sheriff’s department investigation confirmed the photos were taken by sheriff’s deputies, including at least one employee of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.
An attorney for Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant and mother of Gianna Bryant, 13, who was also killed in the crash, called the alleged behavior by deputies “inexcusable and deplorable,” according to the LA Times.
The bill making such photos illegal passed through both the Assembly and the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support, garnering 75 “ayes” in the Assembly and 39 “ayes” in the Senate.
The bill further seeks to inform and update first responders of their code of ethics when responding to a situation that involves death.
“The bill would require an agency that employs first responders to, on Jan. 1, 2021, notify those first responders of the prohibition imposed by the bill. By increasing the duties of local agencies, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program,” according to AB 2655.
Villaneuva voiced his support for the bill in an interview with CNN, noting the “peace” and “honor” the bill provides.
“It provides something very important,” Villanueva said. “It’s peace of mind for the families, next of kin to those who perished in an accident scene, so we can ensure that first responders are going to behave responsibly, they’re going to honor their privacy and protect it.”
Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, who represents the 45th Assembly District where the crash occurred, reiterated the need for privacy.
“As we remember the incredible legacy of Kobe Bryant, we also must acknowledge that the distribution of images related to his death was completely unacceptable. Victims and their families deserve dignity and privacy,” Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) said in a statement provided by his office. “I’m pleased that the Legislature has taken action to address this issue and applaud my colleague Mike Gipson for his leadership.”
The bill will soon move to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom for consideration. 300×250 image ad