LOS ANGELES – Two Los Angeles County firefighters could be fired and a third suspended after some first responders took and shared graphic photos of the location of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter and seven others.
The court documents were filed on Monday as part of widow Vanessa Bryant’s federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County alleging an invasion of privacy. The filing suggests postponing the November 16 trial by five months to April 27, 2022 as the lawyers have to review a large amount of material.
Kobe Bryant and the others were killed on January 26, 2020 when the helicopter crashed on board west of Los Angeles. Federal security officials blamed pilot errors for the wreck that killed the Los Angeles Lakers basketball star.
An internal investigation by the Los Angeles County Fire Department found that two firefighters – whose names were not disclosed in court records – took photos of the bodies in the helicopter wrecks for “no business necessity,” wrote Vanessa Bryant’s attorneys. and “only served to appeal to lower instincts and desires for visual gossip.”
They then sent the photos to a third firefighter – a media officer who was there and later shared the pictures with firefighters and their wives and friends while socializing at an awards ceremony at a Hilton hotel a month after the crash.
The two firefighters, one of whom was only on site to oversee security, received letters last December with the intention of doing the dismissal. The third firefighter received a letter with the intention of exposing him. The employment status of all three was not immediately clear on Wednesday.
Los Angeles County’s attorneys have argued that there is no legal basis for Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit because the photos were not publicly distributed. You cannot sue for “hypothetical damage” that they could be publicly shared, the district said on file.
District Fire Department spokesman Captain Ron Haralson declined to comment, citing the lawsuit.
Several Los Angeles County Sheriff MPs – none of whom were directly involved in investigating the crash – are also included in the lawsuit on charges of passing or passing the gruesome photos around with family, friends and, in one case, with them to have. a bartender and bartender who later complained to the sheriff’s department.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva condemned the behavior of the MPs and ordered them to delete the photos in what has since been heavily criticized. The captain of the Malibu / Lost Hills Sheriff Station, which oversees the area where the crash occurred, pushed the decision back but was overridden.
The sheriff’s department said Wednesday that “a full administrative investigation has been conducted and appropriate administrative measures have been taken”. However, due to a pending litigation and state labor law prohibiting disclosure of specific administrative measures, details of MPs’ discipline could not be provided. “
Governor Gavin Newsom signed law last year making it a crime for first responders to take unauthorized photos of those who have died at the scene of an accident or crime.
Representatives of the union, which represents firefighters, did not immediately respond to The Associated Press’s request for comment on Wednesday.
The firefighter who received and shared the photos was not named in court documents, but the Los Angeles Times reported that Captain Tony Imbrenda filed a retaliatory lawsuit in November. Imbrenda alleged that he was downgraded for refusing to give his personal cell phone while investigating the photos, in what he believed was a violation of the Firefighter Bill of Rights.
However, Imbrenda handed over his cell phone and laptop, the Times reported. His lawsuit said he had received photos of people working at the crash site, “as is common with all major incidents.”
He took his own photos the next day, the Times reported, but declined to take photos of the victims’ bodies, saying he did not take photos with his personal cell phone.
Imbrenda did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.