LA County's top firefighter takes stand in Kobe Bryant crash photos trial

Tuesday, August 23, 2022
Vanessa Bryant gives emotional testimony in Kobe crash photos trial
Vanessa Bryant took the stand Friday in the trial over photos taken at the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant and their daughter.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County's top fire official took the stand Monday in the federal trial concerning gruesome photos taken at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others in January 2020.

Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester -- whose wife and daughter were also killed in the crash -- are suing L.A. County for negligence and invasion of privacy after members of the sheriff's and county fire department took dozens, possibly hundreds, of graphic photos of bodies at the scene and then shared them with others.

Acting Fire Chief Anthony Marrone, called by county attorneys, testified that he issued a direct order the day of the crash for fire personnel to "exercise sensitivity" with any photographs that were taken, given Bryant's celebrity status and the high amount of media attention.

But former L.A. County Fire Capt. Brian Jordan is accused of taking close-up photos of the victim's body parts and sending the images to L.A. County Fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda.

On February 15, 2020 -- a few weeks after the crash -- Imbrenda was part of a group of public information officers being honored at the Golden Mike Awards. He admits he showed photos to his colleagues during the event's cocktail hour, but denies the photos included Kobe Bryant. He also denies that he showed those photos to the wife and girlfriends of his firefighter colleagues.

Kobe Bryant photos trial: Former LA County fire captain testifies, walks off witness stand 3 times

A former L.A. County fire captain walked off the witness stand three times during testimony while being questioned about whether he took photos of human remains at the helicopter crash scene that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others.

On Monday, Marrone testified that Jordan was never instructed to take those pictures and that they were not part of the crash investigation.

Attorneys for Vanessa Bryant pointed out that even though Jordan turned over his department-issued electronic devices to the fire department, his laptop was missing its hard drive and the department never checked Jordan's iCloud storage for his county iPhone for any evidence of the photos.

RELATED: Vanessa Bryant gives emotional testimony in Kobe crash photos trial

Bryant and Chester have both testified that they live in fear that the gruesome photos will pop up on the internet someday.

Also taking the stand Monday was L.A. County sheriff's Cmdr. William Jaeger, who headed up the internal affairs investigation into the deputies accused of taking and/or sharing the crash-site photos.

Jaeger says the department spent roughly 1,000 hours looking into the accusations and confirmed that the photos were erased from the accused deputies' personal phones. Investigators also used keyword searches of the deputies' social media accounts and did not find any of the pictures. None.

But on redirect, Jaeger admitted investigators were not able to check the deputies' email accounts or other ways they could have shared the photos.

Kobe Bryant photos trial: OC man who lost wife, daughter in crash describes day of accident

"It was grief on top of grief," said Chris Chester, an Irvine financial adviser whose wife and 13-year-old daughter were among the nine people killed in the crash.

In a demonstration of support, singers Ciara and Monica joined Vanessa Bryant in court on Monday.

Several times throughout the day, Bryant and Chris Chester left the courtroom when testimony involved grisly descriptions of the victims' injuries.

Closing arguments could come as early as Tuesday.

RELATED: Vanessa Bryant's attorney argues photos of Kobe Bryant's remains shared 'for a laugh'

Vanessa Bryant's invasion of privacy trial against the Los Angeles County sheriff's and fire departments began Wednesday in a U.S. District Court just over a mile from where Kobe Bryant played most of his career with the Lakers.

RELATED: Whistleblower details night LASD deputy shared Kobe Bryant crash-scene photos at Norwalk bar

The man who sparked the investigation over unauthorized photos taken at the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant is speaking out.

Correction: Los Angeles County Fire Department Anthony Marrone's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this report.