In yet another reminder to DO our jobs, a probe found that two L.A. County Firefighters had taken crash site photos that “served no business necessity,” Vanessa Bryant’s lawyers said in a court filing…and they are expected to lose their jobs. While this is not a close call or LODD, we sometimes expand our mission to help Firefighters stay out of trouble…
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 last 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.
None of the three were identified by name, and their employment status was not clear.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Capt. Ron Haralson, declined to comment citing the pending litigation, and could not confirm whether or not the three firefighters had been fired or disciplined.
The union representing Los Angeles County firefighters did not respond to a request for comment.
Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit accuses a number of deputies, firefighters, and other officials of taking or sharing photos of dead bodies at the scene, including those of Kobe and the couple’s teenage daughter, Gianna.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant were among nine people killed in January 2020 when the helicopter they were riding in flew through thick clouds and crashed into a hillside near Calabasas. The NTSB determined the probable cause of the crash was pilot error.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said he learned within days of the crash that at least one deputy who worked at the Malibu-Lost Hills station had reportedly flashed gruesome accident scene photos at a bar.
Villanueva told NBC News in March 2020 the behavior was “inexcusable,” “inappropriate” and “unconscionable,” and said the deputies were immediately ordered to delete the images.
Bryant first filed the invasion of privacy lawsuit in state court in September 2020, then moved it to federal court a month later, accusing county employees of having ‘shown off’ photos of the remains of her husband and teenage daughter for no law enforcement purpose.
Vanessa Bryant’s case claimed dissemination of the images was so widespread within the sheriff’s department that one detective who received some of the pictures told investigators he couldn’t remember who gave them to him.
The sheriff’s department initially withheld from the public court file the names of four of the accused deputies, citing concerns they would be targeted for harassment or hacking if publicly identified. Last March, U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter ruled against the county and allowed the deputies’ names to be published.