LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Los Angeles County fire captain has filed a retaliation lawsuit alleging he was demoted for not fully cooperating with an investigation into graphic photos taken at the crash site where Lakers legend Kobe Brant and eight others were killed.
Capt. Tony Imbrenda, the public information officer following the January crash in Calabasas, filed the suit Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported .
In the suit, Imbrenda said he received photos from first responders at the scene, “as is common practice on all major incidents,” and took some of his own. Once it was communicated to him that there was an investigation, he told the firefighters who sent him photos to delete them, according to the lawsuit.
When investigators asked Imbrenda to turn over his work cell phone and laptop, he complied. But when asked to hand over his personal cell phone, he refused and called the request a violation of the Firefighter Bill of Rights.
In response to that refusal, Imbrenda alleges, he was removed from his position as a spokesperson for the department and had his county-issued vehicle taken away.
According to the lawsuit, Imbrenda was first assigned to a telemedicine unit. He was then transferred to work in serology testing. In September, he moved to an Altadena fire station.
The status and the scope of the fire department’s crash site photo investigation was not immediately clear, but one sheriff’s deputy has been disciplined for sharing the photos.
Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that makes it a misdemeanor for first responders to take and share accident and crime scene photos for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or a genuine public interest.
The crash killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna; Payton and Sarah Chester; Alyssa, Keri and John Altobelli; Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.