TMZ scolded by police for breaking news of Kobe Bryant's death before family could be notified

Law enforcement officials in Los Angeles have criticized the celebrity news outlet TMZ for being the first to report of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter on Sunday, before police were able to notify his family of the tragedy.

According to CNN, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva knocked the news outlet at a press conference while explaining why officials didn’t release the identities of the nine people killed in the crash earlier in the day.

"It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one ... perished and you learn about it from TMZ," he said. "That is just wholly inappropriate."

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Los Angeles County Undersheriff Tim Murakami ‏said later on Sunday that he was also “saddened that I was gathering facts as a media outlet reported that Kobe had passed.”

“I understand getting the scoop but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It’s very cold to hear of the loss via media,” he tweeted. “Breaks my heart.”

TMZ did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill. 

The Hollywood Reporter editorial director Matthew Belloni told CNN that when it comes to the deaths of high-profile people, TMZ has an "in" with "the kinds of people who know this information.”

"If TMZ reports that a celebrity has died in Los Angeles County, it is almost always correct. For whatever reason, and you can read into this, their accuracy rate in Los Angeles is very, very good,” he said.

The speedy coverage comes several years after the celebrity news gossip site was the first to break news about Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, according to CNN. It also was reportedly the first outlet to report on Whitney Houston’s death in 2012 as well when musician Prince died three years ago.