Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, unleashed a social media tirade on the Los Angeles County sheriff — a day after he challenged NBA superstar LeBron James to match reward money for information about the recent shooting of two deputies.
Bryant took to Instagram Story on Tuesday and in a series of screenshots, she called out Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his department for leaking out graphic photos taken after her husband and 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash in January.
In a radio interview with 790 KABC on Monday, Villanueva challenged James, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, to match $175,000 in reward money.
The two deputies were ambushed and shot multiple times Saturday while sitting in their patrol car at the MLK Transit Center in in Compton, California. Both are expected to survive. The shooter remains at large.
“I’d like to see LeBron James step up to the plate and double that,” Villanueva said. “I know you care about law enforcement. You expressed a very interesting statement about your perspective on race relations and on officer-involved shootings and the impact that it has on the African-American community.
“And I appreciated that. But likewise, we need to appreciate that respect for life goes across all professions.”
James has long used his voice to speak out against police misconduct and other social issues. After the August shooting of Jacob Blake by officers in Wisconsin, James said “we are scared as Black people in America.”
James has not responded to the sheriff’s challenge.
Bryant also posted screenshots of tweets from Twitter user @ElanMaree, who tweeted a clip of Villanueva criticizing athletes, elected officials and civic leaders for “fanning the flames of hatred.”
“How can he talk about trusting the system?” @ElanMaree said in the screen grab Bryant posted on her Instagram Story. “His sheriff dept. couldn’t be trusted to secure Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash scene, his deputies took and shared graphic photos of crash victims. Vanessa Bryant is suing them.”
Vanessa Bryant has questions for LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who challenged Lakers star LeBron James to double a reward for the capture of the gunman who ambushed two deputies in Compton. https://t.co/vPa35U3cBU pic.twitter.com/W7jDgkTEoI
— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) September 15, 2020
Bryant filed a suit against the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles Superior Court in May, seeking damages for emotional distress and mental anguish caused by the news that deputies had taken and shared the unauthorized photos, multiple outlets, including CBS reported.
Villanueva said that eight deputies allegedly took and shared photos of the crash scene, but that he ordered them to be deleted.
“That was my No 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva told NBC News in March. “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And we’re content that those involved did that.”