LA County deputy who took photos at site of crash that killed Kobe Bryant testifies in court

In court, he said he took about 25 photos and sent them as a text message to a deputy at the station.

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Saturday, August 13, 2022
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Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Doug Johnson was one of the first people at the crash site. He claims it did not occur to him that having these photos on his personal phone might not be appropriate.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It was another emotional day for Vanessa Bryant as testimony continued Friday in the trial for her lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's and Fire Departments over photos taken at the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna in January 2020.

There were times she wasn't in the courtroom because of the graphic details.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Doug Johnson was one of the first people at the crash site.

On the stand Friday, he said he had to hike up a hill to get to the site and said it took more than an hour. He said he searched for survivors and described it as a gruesome scene.

Johnson testified that he was told to take pictures of the entire scene and document it and he felt that included taking photos of the victims.

He said he took about 25 photos and sent them as a text message to a deputy at the station.

Johnson claims it did not occur to him that having these photos on his personal phone might not be appropriate.

He said it was common practice to share photos of incidents with members of the department. Johnson said after his shift, he deleted all the photos from his phone.

Though not mentioned in court, Johnson is the same deputy seen in surveillance video kneeling on the neck of inmate Enzo Escalante in a use-of-force incident inside San Fernando courthouse last year.

The court also heard from Luella Weireter, who was in tears several times during her testimony.

Weireter is the wife of a firefighter and testified that at an awards event, L.A. County firefighter Capt. Tony Imbrenda was showing pictures of the crash that he had on his phone.

Weireter explained that she had family members who died in the crash and was disgusted.

Her cousin was Keri Altobelli. Keri, her husband John and daughter Alyssa all died in the crash.

Weireter said some people gathered around to look and described the atmosphere as a party trick.

She said one person walked away and said, "I can't believe I just looked at Kobe's burned-up body, and now I'm about to eat."

Weireter said the photos they were looking at could have been of her family members and reported it to the L.A. County Fire Department.

Kobe Bryant, Gianna, and other parents and players were flying to a girls basketball tournament when their chartered helicopter crashed in the fog. Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the wreck.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.