Two Los Angeles firefighters face the possibility of being sacked and a third suspended in another ugly twist to the tragic death of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant.
In court documents filed as part of widow Vanessa Bryant’s federal lawsuit against Los Angeles County, a number of first responders are accused of taking and sharing graphic images from the crash site where the NBA great, his daughter Gianna and seven others died when their helicopter crashed.
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Bryant is suing LA County over employees taking and sharing photos of the bodies of her late husband, their daughter and the seven others at the crash site in January, 2020.
In March, Bryant herself released the names of four sheriff's deputies who have been accused of taking and sharing anywhere from 25 to 100 photos, but four may have been a conservative number.
Attorneys claim over 80 city employees involved
According to the latest filing, Bryant's lawyers claim that at least 18 fire or police department employees took or possessed crash site phots, and many more have information related to the photos.
“Mrs. Bryant has since learned that the number of LASD and LAFD employees who took, shared, and/or possessed improper photos of the accident scene is actually eighteen (and counting) and that 66 county employees have relevant knowledge of the misconduct,” the federal court filing stated.
Since the misconduct “is both more expansive and more egregious than (Bryant) originally understood," they're requesting more time for discovery, which would give them more time to investigate and depose additional witnesses.
One of those witnesses is LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. According to the suit, he told the four deputies that if they "came clean" and deleted the photos from their phones, they wouldn't face any sanctions.
However, a sheriff's captain was allegedly concerned that deleting the photos would be considered destroying evidence and put a stop to it. Bryant's legal team is seeking to verify those claims.
The Sheriff’s Department said this week that “a full administrative investigation was conducted and appropriate administrative action was taken” but exact details of what that entailed were omitted due to the pending lawsuit and state employment law that prohibits the disclosure of “specific administrative actions.”
Fire department involvement
When the lawsuit was first filed, only police department employees were named but the latest suit has now also exposed the fire department's possible involvement.
According to Bryant's lawyers, they uncovered an internal fire department investigation which found that two fire department employees took photos of bodies at the crash site and shared them with a third employee.
“According to the reports and letters, two Fire Department employees took photos of victims’ remains at the crash site that 'served no business necessity' and instead 'only served to appeal to baser instincts and desires for what amounted to visual gossip,'" the filing read via USA Today.
NBC News reported that the investigation concluded in December and both employees were given "intent to discharge" letters, which indicated that they would be fired.
The third fire department employee who received the photos reportedly received an “intention to suspend” letter.
The current employment status of those employees isn't known.
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