Smoke from helicopter crash
Smoke from the helicopter crash north of Malibu. Courtesy Los Angeles Sheriff

A documentary production company is taking legal action against Los Angeles County and Sheriff Alex Villanueva to obtain video through the California Public Records Act regarding the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others.

Among other issues, Real World Media LLC does investigative news reporting on transportation safety. The company alleges in a Los Angeles Superior Court petition filed Friday that it has wrongfully been denied access to the information requested.

“(Real World Media) is seeking video, audio and photographic records related to the accident and the resulting investigations; (the company) is not seeking post-accident images of the deceased,” the petition states.

The helicopter with Bryant, his daughter and the others crashed into a hillside in Calabasas on Jan. 26, 2020.

An LASD representative did not reply to a request for comment.

A Real World Media representative submitted a request for records under the CPRA on Jan. 26, 2021, to the Sheriff’s Department, but the LASD denied the request in May of that year, stating the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration had jurisdiction over the accident, the petition states.

However, Real World was seeking LASD’s own records, not those of the NTSB or FAA, the petition states.

A second request submitted Aug. 23 asked for a “complete, unedited, original-resolution, original-quality, electronic copy, transferred … over the internet, of any and all video, audio and photographic records created, utilized, capturing or otherwise obtained in association with any portion of the emergency response to, and investigation of, the subject accident.”

On Sept. 21, Villanueva sent Real World Media a letter denying their request, stating the department was “unable to provide records responsive to your request” based on a Government Code section allowing agencies to withhold a record when the public interest served by withholding the records outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

However, under the same code section, the LASD bears the burden of demonstrating there is a public interest by not disclosing the record that clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the records, according to the petition.

“The denial letter fails to identify any public interest in nondisclosure…,” according to the petition, which further states the delays in turning over the information are respondents’ delay and failure to produce any records responsive to the CPRA request are “unlawful.”

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