The deputy who snapped dozens of close-up images of human stays from the helicopter wreck that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna testified Friday that he didn’t remorse doing so — and mentioned he was unaware the NBA legend was one of many victims.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Doug Johnson took the stand within the third day of Vanessa Bryant’s federal lawsuit towards the county and mentioned he took 25 photos on the California crash website and texted them to 2 firefighters that he believed had been excessive up in command.
Johnson mentioned a few third of his photos had been close-up photographs of physique elements and advised the courtroom they had been taken on the behest of Dept. Raul Versales, who was on the command submit on the backside of the Calabasas hill the chopper slammed into.
Legal professionals for Bryant, who allege that staff took “photos as souvenirs,” countered Johnson’s declare by enjoying a recording of Versales saying, “All of us on the command submit, together with myself, we didn’t request images.”
The deputy’s testimony additionally contradicted the sworn assertion of Malibu Search & Rescue Workforce Reserve Deputy David Katz, who advised the courtroom Thursday that Johnson had advised him he took 100 photos.
Johnson testified he and one other deputy hiked by the tough terrain of the hillside and acquired to the crash website at about 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2020, discovering it strewn with severed physique elements.
Upon arrival he talked to 2 males who he thought had been officers with Los Angeles County Fireplace, he testified. Johnson advised them that one in every of his assignments was to take photos of your entire scene.
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Douglas Johnson mentioned a few third of his photos had been close-up photographs of physique elements.BACKGRID
When requested if he interpreted that to imply that he was instructed to take close-ups of physique elements, Johnson replied, “Sure, sir.”
The deputy testified he took photographs of a black man’s indifferent arm and hand, a close-up of a shin, a foot of darkish pores and skin tone, and a torso discovered close to the helicopter. The photographs had been presumably of the retired 41-year-old NBA star.
“I don’t bear in mind seeing the sufferer’s head,” Johnson mentioned. “I bear in mind [it having] a torso and having pants.”
Johnson mentioned he additionally took close-up photos of our bodies in a ravine. Certainly one of them was a baby with lengthy black hair and black pores and skin — presumably Gianna, 13.
He despatched the grisly photos to Capt. Brian Johnson and one other uniformed firefighter that he assumed was a captain, in response to the testimony. That individual remained unidentified, he advised the courtroom.
At one level, one in every of Vanessa’s attorneys, Eric Tuttle, requested, “Did it ever happen to you that it isn’t acceptable to have close-ups of human stays in your private cellular phone?”
Johnson replied, “No, sir,” and repeated the reply when requested if he regretted taking the images or if he would have finished something in a different way.
Johnson advised the courtroom he wouldn’t have finished something in a different way. Mona Shafer Edwards / BACKGRID
Throughout cross examination, Jennifer Mira Hashmall, the protection legal professional representing LA County, county sheriffs and the county hearth division, requested Johnson if he knew who was concerned within the crash on the time.
“Once you took the photographs, do you know it was Kobe Bryant who was within the air?”
“No, ma’am,” the deputy replied.
Johnson mentioned an inside investigation was carried out and he was interviewed twice, however mentioned he was by no means disciplined in connection to a criticism lodged by Deputy Katz.
Legal professionals for Vanessa have alleged that county officers inappropriately shared the non-public photos, inflicting her “extreme emotional misery and compounded the trauma of shedding Kobe and Gianna.”
The widow broke into tears Thursday as a bartender testified a deputy had proven her photos of Kobe’s stays whereas she was behind the stick.
Earlier Friday, a retired cop testified that officers in LA have a tradition of protecting “ghoul books” with graphic images of useless celebrities and different high-profile victims for their very own amusement.
Kobe, Gianna and 7 others — Christina Mauser; Payton and Sarah Chester; John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; and pilot Ara Zobayan — died when Bryant’s helicopter collided with a hillside amid dense fog.
The group had been on their method to a youth basketball recreation in Thousand Oaks.