LA deputy says he doesn’t regret taking photos of Kobe Bryant’s headless body at the crash site

Los Angeles County deputy says he doesn’t regret taking photos of Kobe Bryant’s headless body at crash site as he claims he was assigned to

  • Deputy Doug Johnson testified on Friday that he didn’t regret taking photos of Kobe Bryant’s headless body at the January 2020 crash site
  • Johnson is alleged to have taken up to 100 photos of the scene, which he distributed via text message, which eventually got passed around 
  • The deputy said a third of his photos were close-up shots he said were commissioned by Deputy Raul Versales, who has denied requesting them 
  • Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, is suing the county in a federal lawsuit for emotional distress, saying the idea of the photos being distributed haunts her  
  • Vanessa Bryant has accused the county of taking ‘souvenir’ photos and a retired cop testified that it had a reputation for keeping a ‘ghoul book’ of dead celebrities 

A Los Angeles County deputy said he didn’t regret taking photos of Kobe Bryant‘s headless body at the site of a 2020 helicopter crash that took the lives of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, because he was assigned to do so. 

Doug Johnson arrived on the third day of trial dressed in a sleek black suit with a black phone and water bottle to take the stand in Vanessa Bryant’s, the NBA star’s widow, federal lawsuit against the county. 

Johnson is alleged to have taken up to 100 photos of the scene, including of a headless black man that is presumed to be Kobe Bryant. He claimed he did not know the bodies included anyone famous at the time. 

However, a retired police officer testified on Friday that the county had a history of keeping ‘ghoul books’ that include graphic photos of dead celebrities.  

The deputy said a third of his photos were close-up shots and were commissioned by Deputy Raul Versales, who was stationed at the bottom of the Calabasas hill, where the crash happened. 

Versales has denied requesting the photos, stating: ‘All of us at the command post, including myself, we did not request photographs.’ 

Johnson’s photographs were taken on a cell phone and distributed via text message. 

When asked if he thought taking the photos on a personal phone was inappropriate, he said, according to the New York Post: ‘No, sir.’  

Vanessa is suing the county for ’emotional distress,’ saying that Johnson’s photos were distributed in a bar by other deputies who were gloating about having ‘souvenir’ photos of Kobe’s body,  which ‘compounded [her] trauma of losing Kobe and Gianna.’ 

Doug Johnson (pictured on Friday) testified on Friday that he didn't regret taking photos of Kobe Bryant's headless body at the January 2020 crash site. Johnson is alleged to have taken up to 100 photos of the scene, which he distributed via text message, which eventually got passed around

Doug Johnson (pictured on Friday) testified on Friday that he didn’t regret taking photos of Kobe Bryant’s headless body at the January 2020 crash site. Johnson is alleged to have taken up to 100 photos of the scene, which he distributed via text message, which eventually got passed around

Vanessa (pictured on Friday) is suing LA county for 'emotional distress,' saying that Johnson's photos were distributed in a bar by other deputies who were gloating about having 'souvenir' photos of Kobe's body

Vanessa (pictured on Friday) is suing LA county for ’emotional distress,’ saying that Johnson’s photos were distributed in a bar by other deputies who were gloating about having ‘souvenir’ photos of Kobe’s body

Johnson testified on Friday that he and another deputy hiked up the hillside to the crash site around 11.30am in January 2020, where they found body parts everywhere. 

The deputy said when he arrived at the top of the hill, he told officials – believed to be of LA County Fire – that he had been assigned to take photos. 

When asked if he had interpreted the assignment as taking close-up pictures of bodies, he told the court: ‘Yes, sir.’ 

He also testified that when he presumably found the NBA star, it was only a torso with pants. 

‘I don’t remember seeing the victim’s head,’ he said on Friday, according to the New York Post. 

He also allegedly took photos of bodies in the ravine, which presumably included Gianna’s. 

Vanessa is seeking damages for invasion of privacy over the sharing of the graphic photos. 

The photos were taken by police officers and firefighters at the site of the helicopter crash in Calabasas, where Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in January 2020. 

A third of Johnson's photos were allegedly close-ups, which include a photo of Kobe's headless body and Gianna's body in the ravine

A third of Johnson’s photos were allegedly close-ups, which include a photo of Kobe’s headless body and Gianna’s body in the ravine 

Johnson and another deputy climbed to the top of the hill, where Johnson claimed he was ordered to take photos, which he believed included close-ups of the bodies. The photos were taken on a cell phone and later distributed

Johnson and another deputy climbed to the top of the hill, where Johnson claimed he was ordered to take photos, which he believed included close-ups of the bodies. The photos were taken on a cell phone and later distributed 

A map showing where the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant took off and crashed in the Los Angeles area in January 2020

A map showing where the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant took off and crashed in the Los Angeles area in January 2020

In documents filed in January 2022, Vanessa’s attorney, Luis Li, wrote that pretrial evidence ‘has shown that the close-up photos of Gianna and Kobe’s remains were passed around on at least 28 sheriff’s department devices and by at least a dozen firefighters, and shown off in bars and at an awards gala.’

Li also alleged that Los Angeles County officials ‘engaged in a coverup, destroying the direct forensic evidence of their misconduct and requiring extensive circumstantial evidence to establish the full extent of that misconduct.’

Los Angeles County has previously defended itself by saying that the photos were not posted online or seen by the public aside from in a bar two days after the crash. In that incident, a bartender told a patron that an officer had just shown him the photos. That patron filed a complaint with the LA County Sheriff’s Office.

Vanessa previously said that the photos showing the death of her husband and daughter were ‘out there,’ caused her ‘constant fear and anxiety,’ and that she was having trouble sleeping and was depressed as a result.

She added that she has been contacted by internet creeps telling her they’ll share the gruesome photos online, although those threats have yet to come to fruition.

Vanessa also said she has seen one photo of her husband’s body, and that it sickens her to see ‘Kobe Bryant body’ pop up as a suggested search on Google when she types her late husband’s name into the search bar. Six of the couple’s family friends and the chopper pilot also died in the smash.

She was forced to detail her anxiety in a declaration filed with LA County. In documents seen by TMZ, Bryant details how she asked Sheriff Alex Villanueva on the day of the crash, January 26, 2020, to secure the crash site and not allow anyone to take photographs after learning there were no survivors.

When asked if he thought taking photos on a cell phone was inappropriate, he told the court 'no'

When asked if he thought taking photos on a cell phone was inappropriate, he told the court ‘no’ 

Vanessa was drawn looking dressed in court on Friday

Vanessa was drawn looking dressed in court on Friday 

But just one month later, she learned Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters were indeed passing around photos that had been taken of Kobe and Gianna’s remains.

Last month, Vanessa also highlighted another scandal involving Johnson, in which he allegedly kneeled on an inmate’s neck. 

In response, lawyers for the county have asked a judge to block Bryant from alerting the jurors, TMZ reported. 

The Sheriff’s Department unsuccessfully tried to keep the kneeling incident under wraps, but a video was leaked to Knock LA

The county filed documents on Friday calling the separate situation ‘entirely unrelated’ to the Bryant case.

It’s believed that alerting the jurors could significantly affect the direction of the forthcoming case. 

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