Deputy Who Took Photos Of Body Parts At Kobe Bryant Crash Scene And Sent Them To Others: ‘I Did Nothing Wrong’

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was among the first to arrive at the scene of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter and seven others testified Friday that ‘had done nothing wrong’ when he snapped 25 photos on the site, some of which contained close-up images of body parts, and sent the photos to others.

CBS Los Angeles Reporting Deputy Doug Johnson testified in federal court that he walked for more than an hour through remote, brush-filled terrain to get to the crash site. He said he searched the site for about 15 minutes looking for survivors, clearing away a handful of hikers and recording the area before taking photos on his cellphone to ‘document’ the crash scene at the request of a command deputy. Publish.

The widow of NBA legend Vanessa Bryant and Irvine financial adviser Chris Chester, who lost his wife and 13-year-old daughter in the accident, are sue the county for millions of unspecified dollars for negligence and invasion of privacy on photos taken on the site. The county maintains that any footage taken by sheriff’s deputies and firefighters was promptly destroyed, no longer exists in any form, and never entered the public domain.

Opening statements from Vanessa Bryant's trial regarding graphic photos taken by first responders at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, their teenage daughter and seven others will start today in the city center
Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, leaves the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2022. She is suing the county over graphic photos taken by first responders at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed her husband.

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The plaintiffs say they continue to suffer emotional distress because of the possibility that photos of the broken bodies of their family members will one day surface on the Internet since, as one of their lawyers told the jury this week, “digital lives forever”.

When questioned by a lawyer for Bryant, Johnson said he texted the 25 photos to the command post deputy and AirDropped them to a county fire supervisor, who remains unidentified.

He claimed to have lost the phone the following year in Las Vegas.

Lawyers for Bryant and Chester argue that after Johnson sent the photos, the images spread to at least 10 other people, some of whom allegedly posted them for members of the public.

On the third day of the trial, Johnson said it never occurred to him that having pictures of the death on his personal cellphone was inappropriate. He testified that it was “common practice” among law enforcement personnel to share and receive images of dead bodies.

The deputy told the downtown Los Angeles jury that he had used his phone at crime and accident scenes to take photos “thousands of times”.

Johnson said he deleted all the photos he took of the scene of the helicopter crash, as well as a text thread with the command post deputy, shortly after arriving home this evening there, he testified.

‘I know I didn’t do anything wrong,’ he said on the stand, and admitted he didn’t recall ever learning at the academy that family members had rights regarding images of the death of loved ones.

Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash in Calabasas Hills
The site of a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of former NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant is shown January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Nine people aboard the helicopter perished in the accident, according to published information. (Photo by TSM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)


Under cross-examination, Johnson said “photographs are the most accurate and comprehensive way to document” crash sites.

Bryant left the courtroom ahead of Johnson’s testimony, which included descriptions of catastrophic injuries sustained by the victims.

Earlier on Friday, a Los Angeles woman who lost two family members in the crash said while attending the Golden Mike Awards gala at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City in February 2020, she saw former Los Angeles County Fire Captain Tony Imbrenda viewing images of remains on his phone.

In tearful testimony, Luella Weireter said she lost her cousin and relative’s husband in the crash and was still grieving when she attended the awards ceremony. She testified that Imbrenda’s wife invited her to look at the photos of Kobe’s corpse on the fire captain’s phone.

She also said she overheard another fire official say that night that he had just “looked at Kobe’s burnt body and I’m about to eat.”

A few days later, Weireter went to a fire station in Malibu to file a complaint.

Testimony will resume on Monday.

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