LA County deputy Doug Johnson 'DOES NOT REGRET' taking pictures of Kobe Bryant's headless body

Johnson is alleged to have taken up to 100 photos on his cellphone from the scene, says 'it's his job'

LA County deputy Doug Johnson 'DOES NOT REGRET' taking pictures of Kobe Bryant's headless body
Vanessa Bryant alleged that her privacy was invaded when Los Angeles County deputies and Fire Department personnel shared graphic photos of Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant with their friends and colleagues (Getty Images and Instagram)
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Doug Johnson, a LA County deputy said he "does not regret" taking pictures of Kobe Bryant’s corpse at the January 26, 2020 helicopter crash that took the lives of the NBA superstar, his daughter Gianna Bryant,13, and other players, as "it was his job."

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Doug Johnson, who was one of the first responders at the site of a helicopter crash in the Santa Monica Mountains near Calabasas, California, Los Angeles, arrived at court on Friday, August 13, the third day of Vanessa Bryant's trial against Los Angeles County. Johnson is alleged to have taken up 100 photos of the scene from his cellphone including close-ups of a headless black man who is presumed to be NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. However, a retired police officer testified on Friday, August 13 that the county had a common practice of taking photos of human remains and keeping "ghoul books."

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In his defense, the Deputy said he was unaware of the fact that the dead bodies at the helicopter crash includes any celebrated face at the time. He also confirmed that a third of his photos taken that day were close-up shots and were commissioned by Deputy Raul Versales. But Versales, who was stationed at the bottom of the Calabasas hill clearly denied requesting any such close-up pictures. "All of us at the command post, including myself, we did not request photographs," Deputy Versales said.

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Johnson confirmed that he doesn’t regret taking a close-up picture of dead bodies and sharing it with LACFD Captain Brian Jordan who Johnson met at the scene. Testifying on Friday, Johnson said after getting the information about the crash, he and another deputy hiked up the hillside to the crash site around 11.30 am in January 2020 where they found the dead bodies of the passengers including Kobe and Gianna.

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He further added when he reached the top of the hillside, he told his officials that he is assigned to take pictures of the dead bodies. When asked if he had interpreted the assignment as taking close-up pictures of bodies, he told the court, "Yes, sir".

"I don't remember seeing the victim's head," he testified while stating that when he found the presumed body of the NBA star there was only a torso with pants. He also allegedly took photos of bodies in the ravine, which presumably included Gianna's.

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The Friday trial of the case found a blind spot in the county’s way of handling the plane crash. "It's a common practice," Johnson told the court, referring to LASD staff taking photos of human remains, and sharing them among staff. He added that he'd been to 25-50 accident or crime scenes where he had taken photos of victims or their remains.

Prior to Johnson’s testimony on Friday, a video was played in court on the second day of the trial on Thursday, August 12, in which a LA Sheriff's Deputy Joey Cruz was seen sharing the picture of Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s dead bodies with his friend Victor Gutierrez, who was working as a bartender at the Baja California Bar and Grill, on January 28, 2020.

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the county's fire department, the county as a whole, and eight officers were sued by Vanessa in September 2020. Her suit is seeking punitive damages from county defendants who are accused of taking and sharing crash site photos. Vanessa is suing the county for negligence, emotional distress, and invasion of privacy claims as well as federal claims which relate to the constitutional right to the images of her deceased loved ones, and LA County agency practices that led to the alleged taking and dissemination of photos.

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