The man who prompted an investigation into law enforcement officers sharing gruesome images from the helicopter crash site where basketball legend Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed has said he’d blow the whistle “all over again” if he had to. Ralph Mendez filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Jan. 2020 after a bartender told him a deputy had been there that night, showing him “shocking” pictures of “burned” victims. “It just sounded bad,” Mendez told ABC7. “It just sounded wrong on different levels, whether it’s illegal or not.” The whistleblower, expecting his first child at the time, said he saw a role model in Bryant. “I thought to myself, ‘If I don’t say something, and it is true, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live with myself,’” Mendez explained. Deputy Joey Cruz’s actions were later denounced as “wildly inappropriate” by the sheriff. According to Vanessa Bryant’s lawyers, graphic images of the remains of the basketball star and possibly their daughter, Gianna, were shared among at least 28 deputies and a dozen firefighters. Cruz remains the only deputy to have been disciplined for his actions so far.
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