Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Monday that he ordered eight deputies to delete graphic photos showing the Kobe Bryant crash scene from their phones, letting them know "in no uncertain terms that the behavior is inexcusable."
Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed on Jan. 26 when their helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California. Villanueva told NBC News that the week of the crash, a person contacted the sheriff's department and said while in a bar, they heard a patron tell the bartender they had photos from the accident scene on their phone. It was then determined that as many as eight deputies had taken, seen, or shared the photos.
Villanueva said his "No. 1 priority" was to "make sure those photos no longer exist," and after the deputies admitted they had the pictures, they were ordered to delete them. Villanueva said he did not immediately fire the deputies, fearing they would "lawyer up," increasing "the odds 10-fold that those photos would have somehow made their way into the public domain." He told NBC News he plans on asking the California legislature to "make it a crime to take unauthorized photos of accident scenes that depict the remains of those deceased."
On Sunday, an attorney for Kobe Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, said she was "absolutely devastated" by the idea of people sharing photos of the crash scene.