Photo by Associated Press
Photo by Associated Press

The written complaint came in three days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others: At the Baja California Bar and Grill in Norwalk, a young Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was showing gruesome photos taken at the scene of the tragedy.

“He was working the day the helicopter went down and took pictures of the crash site and bodies,” the author wrote.

The report, filed just after midnight on a contact form on the Sheriff’s Department’s website, generated an email to the Sheriff’s Information Bureau, a team that handles media requests.

From that point on, for nearly five weeks, the leadership of the Sheriff’s Department tried to keep a lid on the episode instead of following the normal investigative protocols — even after determining that several more deputies had obtained photos, according to interviews.

The efforts to avoid public disclosure of the deputies’ actions began in earnest with an order from Sheriff Alex Villanueva to have them quietly delete the photos, a move that some inside the department as well as legal experts said could amount to destruction of evidence.

After The Times disclosed last week that the deputies shared the photos, Villanueva said he would launch an investigation. But now there are mounting demands for an independent inquiry into the matter, the latest in a series of scandals to afflict the nation’s largest sheriff’s department in recent years.

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