RAFAEL Mejia is one of four Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies alleged to have shared photos from the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant.
Their names were revealed when Kobe’s widow Vanessa, 37, posted images of lawsuit documents she filed against Los Angeles County, the sheriff’s department, the county fire department, and the deputies.
Who is Rafael Mejia?
Rafael Mejia, have been named as one of the defendants in the civil rights lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant stemming from the January 26, 2020 crash.
He was a member of the LA County Sheriff’s Department who was on duty at the crash site.
The lawsuit alleges that another deputy Raul Versales obtained multiple photographs of the crash scene while stationed at a makeshift command post that was set up near the crash site, the LA Times reports.
He then shared them with members of the Sheriff’s Department, including Mejia and a detective.
What has Rafael Mejia been accused of?
The lawsuit alleges Mejia obtained "multiple photographs of the Bryants' remains" taken by fire department personnel and "stored them on his personal cell phone", according to NBC.
He then "walked 100 feet from his position at the makeshift command post to chat with a female deputy who was controlling traffic in and out of the Las Virgenes Water District".
"Mejia told the deputy that he had photos of the accident scene and, for no reason other than morbid gossip, proceeded to send the photos of the Bryants' remains to her personal cell phone,'' according to the lawsuit.
Mejia wrote in memo to the head of the Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills station, he received and sent the photos “to answer some questions regarding the color, numbers and identifying features of the aircraft as well as crash scene details,” according to the lawsuit.
But he admitted to investigators he had had no legitimate reason to send the photos to the traffic deputy in an interview two months later.
According to the lawsuit he said: “Curiosity got the best of us.”
Mejia then allegedly transmitted the photos to Joey Cruz, a trainee deputy at the time.
Who are the other cops accused of leaking crash photos?
As well as Rafael Mejia, Raul Versales and Joey Cruz another deputy, Michael Russell is also accused in the lawsuit.
Their names were revealed when a Los Angeles federal judge rejected bid to by county attorneys to have the deputies’ names withheld to prevent them being the targets of hackers.
Cruz is alleged to have shared pictures with Russell, who it’s alleged saved the photos to an album on his personal cellphone so he didn’t have to keep going to his text messages to view them.
Two days after the crash, he shared them with a friend who was a deputy from the Santa Clarita station with whom he played video games nightly.
In text he said that one of the victims was Kobe Bryant, according to the lawsuit.
That friend told investigators that one of the images was of a child’s remains.
Elizabeth Gibbons, an attorney who has represented the deputies in an administrative proceeding about the photos, said they declined to comment.
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