Graphic photos of Kobe Bryant’s crash scene are now at the center of a retaliation claim by a Los Angeles fire captain.
Capt. Tony Imbrenda has sued Los Angeles County, alleging he was removed as fire department spokesman for refusing to turn over his personal cellphone during an investigation into inappropriate pictures of the site where a helicopter carrying Bryant, his daughter and seven others went down. All nine on board died.
Imbrenda, 50, claims his career prospects have been “damaged severely by the cloud of suspicion cast over him during the inquiry,” the Los Angeles Times reported, citing court documents.
The lawsuit states: “Imbrenda had an impeccable reputation in the Southern California PIO community with extensive earning potential in his post fire service career… That potential is now totally destroyed.”
Imbrenda helped organize a news conference away from the site on Jan. 26, the day of the crash. During the day, according to claim, Imbrenda received several multiple photos from colleagues at the site, “a common practice on all major incidents.”
The captain went to the crash site the next day “to gain intelligence on conditions and to assist the FBI photographer with her equipment,” court documents state.
Imbrenda also took photos on the second day. He claims his superiors didn’t tell him that he couldn’t take pictures and that the department has no policy on photography at emergencies, according to the lawsuit.
After Imbrenda learned of the photo sharing investigation, court documents state, he told fellow firefighters to delete their pictures to keep them from falling into the wrong hands and “to spread the word that possession of graphic images could be problematic.”
Imrenda claims he never shared any photos and turned over his work computer and cellphone. He refused to hand over his personal cellphone, claiming the order went against the Firefighter Bill of Rights.
In the lawsuit, Imbrenda denies he took photos of the victims and claims he didn’t take photos with his personal cellphone, but never addresses whether he transferred images to his personal cellphone, the Times reported.
Imbrenda’s pay was slashed in half when he was reassigned to a telemedicine unit. Then, he was transferred to job in serology testing, where he claims colleagues made fun of him.
In September, Imbrenda left the Los Angeles department to join the department in the bedroom community of Altadena.
Kobe’s widow, Vanessa, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County sheriff, claiming deputies shared graphic crash site photos. She is seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
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