Vanessa Bryant testified Friday that she felt betrayed when she learned that personal photos had been taken at the site of the helicopter crash that killed nine people, including her husband Kobe Bryant and her daughter, Gianna.
Bryant, in tears during her emotional testimony, added that she lives in fear of the images surfacing.
"It's like COVID. Once it's spread, you can't get it back,'' she said in court.
Her testimony comes in the federal lawsuit for emotional distress against Los Angeles County, over photos that were taken at the scene of the tragic 2020 crash, and shared by both LA County Sheriff's deputies and LA County firefighters. The lawsuit was filed by both Bryant and Chris Chester, who lost his wife and daughter in the same crash.
Chester and Bryant are suing the county for unspecified millions of dollars.
Bryant, 40, testified that first responders who took photos of her dead 13-year-old daughter "violated' the child. She said she was devastated to learn the photos had been taken, despite an assurance from the sheriff that the crash scene in Calabasas would be secured.
She said she continues to suffer from grief and anxiety at the thought of crash site photos surfacing someday. She said she is seeking justice and accountability for her daughter and husband.
Bryant also testified about learning of the photos days after the tragedy northwest of Los Angeles.
“I felt like I wanted to run, run down the block and scream,” she said, her tears turning to sobs. “It was like the feeling of wanting to run down a pier and jump into the water. The problem is I can't escape. I can't escape my body.”
She was with friends and her other daughters, and holding her 7-month-old baby, when she received a call about a Los Angeles Times story on the crash-site photos.
“I bolted out of the house and around to the side so my girls wouldn’t see,” she said. “I was blindsided again, devastated, hurt. I trusted them. I trusted them not to do these things.”
Angel City FC and U.S. international soccer player Sydney Leroux accompanied Bryant, holding her hand as they entered court.
Vanessa Bryant's attorney Luis Li told jurors in his opening statement in U.S. District Court last Wednesday that the cell-phone photos shot at the crash scene by a deputy and a fire captain were “visual gossip" viewed “for a laugh," and had no official purpose.
“They were shared by deputies playing video games,” Li said. “They were shared repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them."
On Thursday, Chester took the stand and shared emotional testimony with the jury. But according to NBC4 legal analyst Royal Oakes, LA County did an effective job during cross-examination.
"They got him to acknowledge that just going through the trial itself is part of the healing process -- hearing the explanation, hearing the apology," Oakes said. "And he admitted, no depression diagnosis or treatment, he's doing yoga, surfing. So that was helpful for the county."
The defense also pointed out during the trial that the photos have not surfaced online during the two and a half years since the crash.
Several county fire and sheriff's personnel have also taken the stand during the trial, telling jurors they deleted all of the accident-site pictures they had on their cell phones and that they had shared with other people.
Defense attorneys frequently have pointed out during the trial that the photos have not surfaced online in the more than two years since the helicopter crash. Attorneys for the county have also argued that by deleting the photos permanently, they guarantee that the photos will not surface within the public eye.
Vanessa Bryant was the final plaintiffs' witness to take the stand. Sheriff Alex Villanueva is also expected to take the stand on Friday.