Trial with photos of Kobe Bryant: Former LA County Fire Chief Testifies, Leaves Witness Stand Three Times

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — A former Los Angeles County firefighter walked off the stand three times during testimony Monday while being questioned about taking photos of human remains at the 2020 helicopter crash site that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna became. and seven more.

“I need a break,” Brian Jordan declared Monday before standing up about ten minutes after testifying and leaving the courtroom for the first time.

Jordan repeatedly told jurors that his trauma was so extreme that he didn’t even remember being at the crime scene that day in January 2020. Pressed by lawyers, Jordan warned that their questioning brought up images in his mind that “will haunt me forever.” “

Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester are suing Los Angeles County for taking and sharing the photos. Chester lost his wife Sarah and daughter Payton in the crash.

RELATED: LA County Congressman who took photos at the scene of the crash that killed Kobe Bryant testifies in court

Jordan spent 35 years in the fire service before the photos scandal came to light in the months after the crash. According to internal LA County Fire Department documents, Jordan was scheduled to be fired for a series of policy violations but was scheduled to retire instead.

Jordan served as a “security officer” that day, but before that he spent many years as a public information officer dealing with the media.

Last week, LA County Deputy Sheriff’s Department Doug Johnson testified that Jordan arrived at the crash site this Sunday and asked to be shown where all the bodies and human remains are.

Johnson says he complied because he thought Jordan was in charge of media relations. Johnson had already taken between 25 and 100 photos of the wreck, including graphic photos of human remains. Johnson testified that as he led Jordan around the wreckage, Jordan took photos that resembled his own, including images of a black torso, arm and hand.

RELATED: Vanessa Bryant’s attorney argues photos of Kobe Bryant’s remains were shared ‘for a laugh’

Jordan told jurors he was “here on false charges” and that he was ordered to take the photos that day by then-Deputy Police Chief Anthony Marrone.

“Take photos, take photos, take photos,” Jordan said of what Marrone had told him.

The jury then heard audio from Marrone, who denied this in a previous interview.

Jordan was once asked by Bryant’s attorney Luis Li if he also took photos of Kobe’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna.

“I don’t even know who that is,” he replied.

While Jordan testified that he didn’t remember being on the mound that day, he had regular flashbacks to the stand and told jurors it “pained” to remember the scene.

At one point, Jordan referenced the scattered human remains by saying, “You could put all the pieces in a bag and make gumbo or something out of it.”

RELATED: Whistleblower Details Night LASD deputy shared Kobe Bryant crash scene photos at Norwalk Bar

Jordan then announced that he needed another break and left the courtroom for the second time.

Jordan never turned over his personal cellphone to investigators, which was a point of contention in that lawsuit. He turned in his county-issued devices, but Bryant’s attorney, Li, had a question for Jordan about that.

“Why was the hard drive removed from the HP laptop you returned?” Jordan was asked.

“I have no idea,” Jordan replied, adding that he didn’t tamper with any of the devices or remove the hard drive.

Jordan also denies sending graphic photos of human remains to Tony Imbrenda, an LA County fire captain and public information officer. The jury then heard interview audio from Imbrenda, which said he was given photos of Jordan and some of them were illustrative human remains. Imbrenda, who was later fired, showed the photos to fellow firefighters and their wives at an awards gala in mid-February.

Under cross-examination, Jordan testified that he retired in 2021 because of the injuries he sustained “from everything I saw up there…my memory isn’t clear.” He also reiterated claims that he was instructed by Marrone to take the photos and said he never sent the photos to anyone outside the fire service.

Deputy Raul Versales next took the stand and testified that Deputy Doug Johnson sent about 30 photos to his personal cell phone that day. Versales says he was the central person for communications between Johnson at the wreck site and command 1,200 feet down the slope. Versales also refuted Johnson’s statement last week that he told Johnson to take the photos but said it’s possible someone else told him to do it.

Versales then forwarded the photos to four other members of LASD – Deputy Rafael Mejia, Detective Scott Miller, Deputy Scott Jauregui and Sgt. Travis Kelly. Versales claims he sent them the photos because he thought they could play an investigative role at the crime scene and because he was not aware of any policy prohibiting the photos from being sent.

Versales insisted that the photos he saw did not contain any body parts, but Vanessa Bryant’s attorneys then put up a slide with Detective Miller’s description of those photos in his interview with the LASD’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

“You’d have a better chance of identifying a deer that was hit by a Mack truck on the freeway,” Miller said of the remains, adding that “a hamburger equals a hamburger.”

Bryant attorney Craig Jennings Lavoie led Versales through the LASD investigation into the photos scandal, extracting from Versales a statement that LASD investigators spent just two minutes inspecting his phone two months after the crash, and that one of the investigators admitted not to know how iPhones work.

Versales says no one at LASD ever told him to keep his phone despite Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit. He replaced it in October 2020 and the phone he later turned over for a forensic examination was his new phone.

On cross-examination, Versales told jurors that he is now a training officer at LASD Lost Hills Station, where he trains young congressmen who are new to patrol. The investigation into LASD’s internal affairs found that he violated six different policies, but he was never disciplined.

Next on the stand was Deputy Rafael Mejia, who testified that he received between 15 and 25 photos from Versales that day while at the command post. Mejia wasn’t sure if the photos contained human remains and said he was focusing on the debris in the photos in case he could help identify the helicopter.

Mejia told jurors he sent the photos to two deputy “trainees,” Joey Cruz and Ruby Cable, because he thought they might be assigned to write reports or take over his duties at the command post later that night. Mejia says he warned Cruz not to share the photos with anyone. Cruz has admitted showing the photos to a bartender in Norwalk two nights later and admitting they contained body parts.

“Has it ever occurred to you that the photos you sent could contain images of a child?” asked Jennings Lavoie Mejia.

“Yes, but it’s for documentation,” Mejia replied, adding that there is “no age limit” for what they document.

Mejia told the jury he was still a training officer at Lost Hills Station and that although the Internal Affairs Inquiry found he had broken policy, he was not disciplined.

“I wouldn’t do it again,” Mejia said of sharing the photos with Cruz and Cable. “I regret, I regret doing that.”

He says he didn’t want to hurt anyone and believed he was doing the right thing at the time.

Mejia also got a new phone in March 2021 but denies he knew he would be named in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit. The phone he later turned over for forensic examination was a new phone.

On cross-examination, Mejia told the jury that the scene that day was chaotic, with “fans storming the area” and “jumping over fences.” He says they needed the photos to identify the helicopter and determine how large the area needed to be cordoned off from the gathering crowds.

Mejia’s then-apprentice, Deputy Joey Cruz, took the witness stand late Monday. He admits to showing photos containing human remains to this Norwalk bartender Tuesday night after the crash. However, Cruz denies that the body parts were the focus of the photos. Under questioning by Bryant’s attorney, Cruz finally admitted that he had no legitimate reason to have the photos.

Cruz also admits showing the photos to his adult niece that same Tuesday while sitting on the couch at his mother’s house, but says he doesn’t remember if the photos included human remains.

Cruz says he also forwarded the photos to another deputy — Michael Russell — on the night of the crash.

Cruz’s discipline was originally supposed to be a 10-day suspension, but he appealed and had it reduced to a two-day suspension without pay and three paid days for a training session.

“I took it too far,” he told the judges as he showed the photos to the bartender, who he says is a close friend. Cruz testified that he was sad and struggling at the time and did not find the photos humorous or funny.

Attorney Jennings Lavoie was about to play video of Cruz in the bar that night when court ended for the day.

Do you have a tip? Email ABC7 Investigative Producer Lisa.Bartley@abc.com

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https://abc7.com/kobe-bryant-crash-photos-trial-testimony/12129060/ Trial with photos of Kobe Bryant: Former LA County Fire Chief Testifies, Leaves Witness Stand Three Times

Laura Coffey

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