LASD deputy who took Kobe crash site photos describes scene | KFI AM 640


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was among the first to arrive at the scene of the January 2020 helicopter crash that claimed the life of Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter and seven others testified in federal court on Friday that he took 25 cellphone photos from the site, a third of which contained close-up images of body parts, and sent the photos to others .

Deputy Doug Johnson said he walked for more than an hour through remote, brush-filled terrain to get to the crash site. He searched the site for around 15 minutes looking for survivors, warding off a handful of hikers and recording the area before taking photos to ‘document’ the crash scene at the request of a post deputy of command.

The widow of NBA star Vanessa Bryant and Irvine financial adviser Chris Chester are suing the county for millions of unspecified dollars for negligence and invasion of privacy over 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.

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.

As for the phone itself, he says he lost it 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” 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”.

In the case of the helicopter crash — which immediately became big news when TMZ reported that the much-loved basketball star and his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, were among the victims — Johnson deleted all photos he had taken, as well as a text thread with the deputy in the command post, shortly after arriving home that evening, 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.

In cross-examination, the witness insisted that “photographs are the most accurate and complete way to document” accident sites.

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

His lawsuit was consolidated for trial with that of Chester, who lost his wife Sarah and 13-year-old daughter Payton in the Jan. 26, 2020 tragedy, and who makes many of the same allegations as Bryant.

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. She was the second citizen to file a complaint with the county about law enforcement displaying crash scene photos to members of the public.

On Thursday, Cerritos resident Rafael Mendez Jr. said he filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Department on Jan. 28, 2020, almost immediately after hearing a bartender describe an off-duty deputy showing him gruesome images of Kobe Bryant’s body on a cell phone. who had been at the scene of the crash that killed the Lakers star and eight others two days earlier.

“I was in disbelief, disappointed, disgusted and angry,” Mendez told the 10-member jury. “And I felt I had to do the right thing and tell the sheriff’s department what I saw.”

Testimony resumes Monday.


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