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The fallout from images taking of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others continues. It has impacted both the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department. Filings in the lawsuit by Bryant’s wife Vanessa show that a captain pushed back against Sheriff Alex Villanueva‘s order to delete all images. The captain was concerned this could be considered destroying evidence. Also, the court documents indicate the fire department sent termination letters to two firefighters.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department planned to terminate the employment of two firefighters and suspend a third for allegedly taking graphic photos at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and sharing them with their wives and girlfriends, according to court documents filed this week.
The disclosure was made by lawyers for the late basketball star’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, in court documents related to her invasion of privacy lawsuit against Los Angeles County.
The two firefighters were sent “intention to discharge” letters in December after a fire department internal investigation concluded they had taken photos of the dead bodies in the helicopter wreckage that “served no business necessity” and “only served to appeal to baser instincts and desires for what amounted to visual gossip,” Bryant’s attorneys said in a declaration in support of delaying the lawsuit trial to allow time for additional investigation.
The third firefighter was said to be a media relations officer sent to the scene to interact with the press, the court document said.
The firefighter who received the photos and shared them with others was not named in court documents, but the Los Angeles Times has reported that Capt. Tony Imbrenda filed a retaliation lawsuit in November. Imbrenda alleged he was demoted for refusing to hand over his personal cellphone during the investigation into the photos, which he said was a violation of the Firefighter Bill of Rights.
Imbrenda did, however, hand over his department cellphone and laptop, the Times reported. His lawsuit says he received photos from people working at the crash site “as is common practice on all major incidents.”
He took his own photos the next day, the Times reported, but denied taking photos of the victims’ bodies and said he did not take photos with his personal cellphone.