Just over a year ago, the world stood still as one of the most famous sporting icons died in a tragic helicopter crash - a helicopter crash that was photographed and wrongfully shared across the internet.
Well, now a judge has ruled that the deputies who shared the crash photos can be named - and Vanessa Bryant has shared the names in question...
January 26th, 2020, was a dark day for the world.
NBA great, Kobe Bryant, and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, were killed when their helicopter crashed into a California hillside.
It had started as a routine trip to one of Gianna's basketball games.
Kobe, forty-one, and his daughter, who was herself a budding basketball player, were accompanied in the private helicopter by Orange Coast College baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, their teenage daughter, Alyssa, Sarah Chester, and her daughter, Payton; and Christina Mauser, an assistant coach.
Many believed that Gianna was set to follow in her father's footsteps.
From childhood, she would participate in the team warm-ups, and, going by her skill displayed on the court, she was set to have an illustrious basketball career ahead of her.
Their flight took off in clear skies in Orange County...
But it eventually encountered fog so thick that it nearly blinded drivers on the freeway. Visibility was so poor, in fact, that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its fleet of helicopters.
In his last message before the crash, the pilot told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer...
And witnesses on the ground reported seeing the helicopter flying through a layer of clouds and fog seconds before it crashed.
It has since emerged that the helicopter fell at a rate of about twenty-three-miles per hour...
And slammed into the hill in a "high-energy impact crash," according to the N.T.S.B.
Nobody onboard survived.
Footage from the aftermath of the crash was quick to circulate online...
And, even more quickly, the rumors regarding Kobe and Gianna started to emerge.
It was truly harrowing...
Not only because Kobe opted for helicopters as his most regular use of transport, but that the very aircraft that had crashed had actually transported him to his last ever Lakers game in 2016.
The tributes were quick to flood in from all over the globe...
But, of course, all focus was quickly directed to Kobe's surviving wife and daughters.
He left behind his wife, Vanessa Bryant, and their 3 remaining daughters, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.
In the aftermath of the accident, Vanessa wrote on Instagram:
"I've been reluctant to put my feelings into words. My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone. I can't process both at the same time. It's like I'm trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me. It feels wrong."
And, nearly a month on from the tragedy, Vanessa gave her first public speech.
Friends, family, former teammates, and legions of fans packed the Staples Center as Vanessa said goodbye to her husband and daughter.
"Babe, you take care of our Gigi - I got Nani, BB, and Coco. We're still the best team."
Fellow Lakers star and close friend of Kobe's, Michael Jordan, also spoke at the memorial...
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died."— ABC News (@ABC) February 25, 2020
Michael Jordan, a close friend of Kobe Bryant, wiped tears away as he spoke at the NBA legend's memorial service. https://t.co/QNxOZMLziQ pic.twitter.com/n7bydR23kT
And, through tears, said:
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could."
Well, a year has now passed since the devastating event...
And the loss is certainly no easier.
The past twelve months have been undeniably difficult for Kobe's surviving family...
And, on Kobe's first birthday since his death, Vanessa wrote a heartfelt message on Instagram that only highlighted her pain further:
"To my baby. Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain. I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU! I wish I could make you your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi. I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud ass deep laugh. I miss teasing you, making you laugh, and bursting your bubble. I miss you sitting on my lap like my big baby that you are. I think about your tenderness and patience all the time."
Her message continued:
"I picture your smile and wide big welcoming hugs daily. God, I miss you both so much. Our lives feel so empty without you and Gigi. I've been completely broken inside. As much as I want to cry, I put a smile on my face to make our daughter's days shine a little brighter. I'm not the strong one, they are."
And, on the anniversary of the deaths of her husband and daughter, she wrote this:
"I will never understand why/how this tragedy could've happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn't seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!"
Of course, countless tributes from friends of Kobe and fans alike flooded in on the anniversary...
However, fresh rumors did too.
Now, speculation surrounding the crash has been rife.
It is well known that Vanessa Bryant is suing the LA County Sheriff and his department.
According to the lawsuit, obtained by TMZ, Vanessa is claiming that they caused her severe emotional distress.
She is alleging that deputies took personal cellphone photos of the bodies of Kobe and Gigi Bryant at the scene of the helicopter crash in January.
The lawsuit also alleges the photo were subject of conversations within the Sheriff's department.
Until this point, the names of those deputies who are alleged to have shared "unauthorized" photos of the scene have remained under seal.
But now, a judge has ruled they can be named.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter rejected the effort by Los Angeles County lawyers to keep the 4 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies' names under seal in the lawsuit.
Despite them arguing that releasing the names could make the deputies' addresses and other personal information vulnerable and a target for hackers.
The ruling to release the names now means that Vanessa Bryant's lawyers can add the deputies' names and details from the internal affairs investigation about their conduct to an amended complaint in her lawsuit against the county and the Sheriff's Department led by Alex Villanueva.
As per the LA Times, Luis Li, attorney for Vanessa Bryant said "transparency promotes accountability. We look forward to presenting Mrs. Bryant's case in open court."
In the ruling, Walter wrote: "Indeed where the case involves allegations of police misconduct, the public has a vested interest in assessing the truthfulness of the allegations of official misconduct, and whether agencies that are responsible for investigating and adjudicating complaints of misconduct have acted properly and wisely."
"Although the Court recognizes that this case has been the subject of public scrutiny and media attention and that the Deputy Defendants are legitimately concerned that they will encounter vitriol and social media attacks, such concerns, by themselves, are not sufficient to outweigh the public's strong interest in access."
He also noted that the defence of naming the deputies could open them up as targets for hacker made no sense.
"Moreover, Defendants' concern that hackers may attempt to seek out and gain access to the individual deputies' devices to locate any photographs and publish them is totally inconsistent with their position that such photographs no longer exist."
And now Vanessa Bryant has spoken out.
Sharing a post containing the names in question.
Here is her shocking Instagram post.
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