Vanessa Bryant Uses Her Platform to Battle the Powerful

The suit stated that Cruz, then a deputy trainee, received copies of the photos from Mejia. Cruz is accused of showing them to his niece at his mother’s house, while making a crude remark about the images of the bodies, and of showing the images at a restaurant in Norwalk, Calif., where he could be seen zooming in and out of the pictures on a security camera.

“Many of us are on the receiving end of police mistreatment and we just have to swallow those indignities,” said Jody Armour, a professor at the University of Southern California, whose father, Fred, used criminal law he taught himself in prison to be released after a significant portion of his sentence. “Grin and bear it, because we don’t have the social kind of capital to be taken as seriously as she’s being taken.”

Law enforcement officials, Ocen said, typically shape the narratives that filter out of debated interactions. As a result, public opinion is often split about whom to sympathize with. Not in this case, she said.

“There’s universal sympathy, universal outrage for the conduct of the Sheriff’s Department in trivializing, minimizing and desecrating the memory of Kobe Bryant and their daughter,” Ocen said.

Villanueva, the sheriff, announced an investigation into the sharing of the photos in March 2020, before the suit was filed, and asked the county’s Office of Inspector General to monitor it.

“That was a sham,” said Max Huntsman, the inspector general.

By that point, Huntsman said, his office had started an inquiry into Villanueva’s announcement that the photos were ordered to be deleted. Additional efforts to monitor the investigation were stymied by the Sheriff’s Department, which only offered him periodic, redacted updates, Huntsman said.

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