Hearth captain sues over telephone demand in Kobe Bryant crash photograph probe

A Los Angeles County fireplace captain who was on the scene of the helicopter crash that killed NBA star Kobe Bryant and eight others has filed a retaliation lawsuit in opposition to the county, alleging he was demoted for refusing to completely cooperate with an investigation into graphic photographs taken of the crash website.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Capt. Tony Imbrenda, marks the most recent fallout from the photograph scandal that embroiled the county’s fireplace company and the Sheriff’s Division. The Occasions reported this 12 months that sheriff’s deputies shared gruesome images of the scene within the foothills above Calabasas.

Imbrenda, who served as a spokesman for the fireplace division within the days after the crash and later was stripped of that title in the course of the investigation, alleges his profession prospects had been broken severely by the cloud of suspicion solid over him in the course of the inquiry.

“Imbrenda had an impeccable popularity within the Southern California PIO neighborhood with in depth incomes potential in his put up fireplace service profession,” the lawsuit stated. “That potential is now completely destroyed.”

The Hearth Division didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Imbrenda stated in his lawsuit that he was dispatched to the Jan. 26 crash scene, the place he helped arrange a press convention a ways from the particles subject for journalists who arrived as phrase of Bryant’s demise unfold. That first day, he stated he acquired a number of pictures from folks working on the crash website, “as is widespread apply on all main incidents,” in line with his lawsuit.

The lawsuit didn’t clarify why it’s routine for a spokesperson to obtain pictures of against the law or accident scene from others that aren’t to be launched to the general public.

Imbrenda stated he returned the following day to assist with the investigation, touring to the accident website “to realize intelligence on circumstances and to help the FBI photographer along with her tools.” Whereas there, he took just a few photographs on his personal, in line with the lawsuit.

Imbrenda’s superiors didn’t talk that photographs of the scene weren’t allowed, and there’s no division coverage on images at emergency incidents, the lawsuit stated.

Within the weeks that adopted, because it turned clear the Sheriff’s Division was investigating its deputies for sharing photographs of the incident, Imbrenda, 50, alerted firefighters who had despatched him photographs that they need to be deleted, in line with the lawsuit.

He additionally “unfold the phrase” that possession of graphic photographs might be problematic, the lawsuit stated, and that “everybody ought to delete them in order to reduce the potential for the content material to fall into the fallacious palms.”

On March 6, the lawsuit stated, Imbrenda complied with an order handy over his division cellphone and laptop computer. He was then knowledgeable he was the topic of a fireplace division investigation into the alleged photograph taking and sharing, which was “one thing Imbrenda had by no means achieved,” in line with the lawsuit.

Imbrenda subsequently was ordered to show over his private cellular phone or face suspension or discharge. He refused to take action, saying the order was a violation of the Firefighter Invoice of Rights. In response, he alleges, he was faraway from the spokesman place and his county-issued automobile was taken away.

Within the lawsuit, Imbrenda denies taking photographs of the victims’ our bodies and stated he didn’t take photographs together with his private cellular phone. However he didn’t handle whether or not he transferred photographs to his private telephone.

He was first reassigned to a telemedicine unit, the place he labored 12-hour days in a “dungeon-like setting” incomes half of what he made as a spokesman, the lawsuit stated. Then, he was transferred to work in serology testing, a “completely humiliating” expertise as a result of different workers made jokes and laughed at his expense, in line with the lawsuit. In September, he moved to a fireplace station in Altadena.

Imbrenda nonetheless doesn’t know what misconduct allegations had been lodged in opposition to him, the lawsuit stated. The standing and scope of the fireplace division’s investigation into the photographs is unclear.

On the Sheriff’s Division, after a citizen filed a grievance about a deputy sharing grotesque photographs from the crash at a bar in Norwalk, Sheriff Alex Villanueva initially sought to cover up the conduct by quietly ordering the photographs deleted. However when The Occasions uncovered the conduct, the sheriff rapidly ordered an investigation be opened. .

The division has since moved to self-discipline one deputy who saved the pictures on a private cellphone and shared them with buddies, household and coworkers on “a number of events,” in line with the Sheriff’s Division’s quarterly disciplinary report. The deputy, who faces a 10-day suspension, was not recognized within the report.

Gov. Gavin Newsom just lately signed into law a bill that makes it against the law for peace officers and different first responders to take unauthorized photographs of useless folks on the scene of against the law or accident. Within the midst of the scandal over the photographs, and under fire from Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, the Sheriff’s Division sponsored the laws that created the legislation. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson).

Vanessa Bryant has filed a lawsuit in opposition to the Sheriff’s Division over the photographs, in search of damages for negligence, invasion of privateness and intentional infliction of emotional misery. Her lawyer has known as the deputies’ actions “inexcusable and deplorable.”

The crash killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and 7 others. The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter slammed right into a hillside in heavy fog on a morning flight from Orange County to a youth basketball event in Thousand Oaks.