Vanessa Bryant left the courtroom in tears Thursday after a bartender testified that a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy showed him photos of her late-NBA legend husband’s gory helicopter crash scene.
Victor Gutierrez testified that Dep. Joey Cruz showed him the disturbing shots — which included severed body parts strewn across a hillside in Calabasas — while working at a bar in Norco, Calif. in January 2020.
Gutierrez took the stand on the second day of the trial over Vanessa Bryant’s federal lawsuit against the county, and was asked if photos of the remains appeared to belong Kobe Bryant.
“I don’t know. I would say it was just parts,” he told the court, adding that it was hard to tell by skin color who they belonged to.
“It was burned. I don’t know if that was the real color.”
Gutierrez said he saw multiple photos of bloody remains, and when asked if any appeared to belong to a young girl — potentially the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna — Vanessa Bryant burst into tears.
Her attorney, Luis Li, then asked the judge if they could leave the courtroom, to which the judge replied, “You don’t have to ask” — and Bryant walked out sobbing.
Her lawyers then played footage from the bar in which Cruz is seen looking at his phone, showing it to the bartender and laughing.
Asked if Cruz was showing him pictures of the basketball great’s torso, Gutierrez replied, “I don’t remember.”
Gutierrez testified that he has known Cruz for a few years, considered him a friend and didn’t believe he was laughing about the Lakers legend’s remains.
“What kind of human being would laugh about that … you would have to be psycho to do that,” he said.
Rafael Mendez Jr. — a bar customer who filed a report to the LA County Sheriff’s Department saying Cruz had shown the photos to Gutierrez— later testified that he hadn’t actually seen the deputy display the images.
He said he went to the bar on Jan. 28, 2020 and heard Gutierrez talking about how Cruz had displayed the pictures.
Mendez said he filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Department after he left the bar. He was then contacted by Capt. Jorge Valdez shortly thereafter.
Nearly a month later, Mendez said he read an article about his complaint, which frustrated him because Valdez had assured him his name would be kept anonymous.
Mendez said he called back Valdez on March 1, 2020 and “expressed my disdain and frustration” about the apparent leak.
The captain allegedly told him, “You know you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to, right?” referring to reporters, Mendez testified.
Bryant’s attorneys then played a clip of LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Valdez, and other officials being interviewed by a reporter on Feb. 26, 2020.
In that clip, the reporter asked if they were aware of a complaint filed with their office about first responders and deputies sharing photos taken at the crash site, and Valdez is heard saying he was not aware of such a complaint.
“Liar,” Mendez said shortly after hearing the recording in court. “He’s lying that he was unaware of the complaint. He was the first person I spoke to regarding my complaint.”
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