Firefighters Who Took Photos Of Kobe Bryant Crash Could Be Fired
Two Los Angeles County firefighters could be fired and a third suspended for taking and sharing graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others, court documents say.
The court documents were filed Monday, as part of widow Vanessa Bryant‘s federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County that alleges invasion of privacy.
On January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant and seven others were killed when the helicopter they were aboard crashed. Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the crash.
Two firefighters who arrived on the scene took photos of the bodies in the helicopter wreckage. Those two firefighters then sent it to a third firefighter, who also shared the pictures with friends and family at a gathering later that year.
After an internal investigation, the two firefighters were sent “intention to discharge” letters last December. The third firefighter only received an “intention to suspend” letter. The employment status of all three is not clear.
Los Angeles County attorneys have argued that there is no legal basis for Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit because the photos were not publicly disseminated. The attorneys argued that Vanessa cannot sue for a “hypothetical harm” that they might be shared publicly.
Several Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, none of whom were directly involved in the crash investigation, were included in the lawsuit. The deputies were accused of taking or passing around photos with family, friends, and in one case, a bar patron and a bartender.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva condemned the deputies’ behavior and ordered them to delete the photos. The captain of the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff’s station, which oversees the area where the crash occurred, pushed back on the decision but was overruled.
“A full administrative investigation was conducted, and appropriate administrative action was taken,” the sheriff’s department said last Wednesday. The department could not provide details because of a pending lawsuit and a state employment law that bars disclosing “specific administrative actions.”
In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new bill into law banning first responders from taking unauthorized photos of accidents and crime scenes. It makes it “a misdemeanor for a first responder, as defined, who responds to the scene of an accident or crime to capture the photographic image of a deceased person for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or a genuine public interest.”