Deputy Who Took Pictures At Kobe Bryant Crash Site Denies Wrongdoing

Deputy Who Took Body Part Photos At Kobe And Gianna Bryant Crash Site Claims He “Didn’t Do Anything Wrong”

A deputy involved in Vanessa Bryant‘s lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department refuses to claim any wrongdoing. Chris Chester, who lost his wife and 13-year-old daughter in the crash, is also leading the suit against the county. Deputy Doug Johnson testified in court on Friday about his role at the crash site. He admitted to taking at least 25 photos but says he doesn’t believe he did “anything wrong.” 

According to CBS News, Doug was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene in January 2020. A total of nine people, including Kobe and Gianna Bryant, were killed in a hillside crash in Calabasas. The deputy said he hiked through remote and bush-filled grounds for over an hour. After encountering the site, he searched for survivors for 15 minutes–even moving hikers away from the scene.

Deputy Doug also taped off the area before he began snapping pictures of the site using his personal phone. He testified that the documentation was a request from another deputy at the command post. Doug admitted to snapping photos of Kobe’s remains but claims he didn’t know the remains were Kobe. Per TMZ, Doug also photographed a body in a ravine near the crash and a body of a Black child with long hair–believed to be Gianna.

CALABASAS, CA – JANUARY 26: The site of a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of former NBA great Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant, 13, is shown January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Nine people onboard the helicopter perished in the crash, according to published reports. (Photo by TSM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Deputy Claims Taking Death Photos On Personal Phone Is “Common Practice” Among Police

Afterward taking the images, Doug said he sent the 25 photos to the command post deputy. He also AirDropped the same pictures to a county fire supervisor–who has not been identified, per CBS News. Vanessa and Chris’s attorneys say at least ten additional people received the images after Doug initially shared them. In addition, some recipients allegedly shared the gruesome images in public spaces, including a California bar. Such incidents are what inspired the negligence and invasion of privacy lawsuit.

But, per Doug’s testimony, he doesn’t believe he did anything out of the ordinary. The deputy claimed it was “common practice” among law enforcement to share and receive pictures of dead bodies. Therefore, Doug didn’t believe the documentation or existence of the images on his phone was inappropriate. Additionally, he testified to using his personal phone “thousands of times” for photo documentation at crime and accident scenes.

“I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” Doug testified. Later, he admitted to having no recollection of the police academy educating him about the rights family members have over death images of loved ones.

Doug also claimed he deleted all of the images and the text thread with the command post deputy after arriving home the same night after the crash. The deputy also said he lost the phone used for documentation in Las Vegas in 2021.

Deputy Claims Taking Death Photos On Personal Phone Is “Common Practice” Among Police

Before Doug’s testimony, a woman who lost two relatives in the crash testified to seeing an official publicly show the crash site photos. Luella Weireter said former Los Angeles County fire captain Tony Imbrenda showed pictures of the remains at an awards ceremony in February 2020. She claimed the former captain’s wife invited her to see Kobe’s corpse on her husband’s phone. Additionally, Luella says she heard another fire official say, “just looked at Kobe’s burnt-up body, and I’m about to eat.” 

Vanessa Bryant was reportedly not in the courtroom during Doug’s testimony. Earlier this week, she reportedly broke down in tears as her lawyers explained how photos of her husband’s “decapitated body” went public. The trial will resume on Monday with continued testimony.


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