Sheriff's Deputy Who Snapped Photos On The Scene At Kobe Bryant Crash Testifies He ‘Didn’t Do Anything Wrong'

Kobe Bryant on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
(Image credit: ABC)

Following numerous delay’s Vanessa Bryant’s court case against Los Angeles County is now in motion. Bryant is suing the county over photos of Gianna and Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash site, which were reportedly taken and circulated by first responders who showed up on the scene. Vanessa claims she’s experienced “emotional distress” as a result of the situation, a notion that’s been questioned by L.A. County’s legal team. The trial has included a number of notable developments thus far and, more recently, a sheriff’s deputy who reportedly snapped photos took the stand to testify, saying that he “didn’t do anything wrong.”

This past week, Sheriff’s Deputy Doug Johnson testified in federal court, where he addressed the pictures that he took at the Calabasas helicopter crash site in 2020. Johnson, who says he hiked for more than an hour through the woods to get to the site, took 25 photos in total. According to CBS News Los Angeles some of the images depicted close-ups of body parts. Johnson testified that he sent the pictures to the command post deputy via text. He also said that he sent the photos to an unidentified county fire supervisor. 

Doug Johnson went on to say that he did not consider it unprofessional to have the photos on his personal cell phone, which he says he lost a year later in Las Vegas. In his estimation, it’s “common practice” for county officials to distribute such photos amongst each other. The sheriff’s deputy went on to say that “photographs are the most accurate and thorough way to document” crash sites and that he’d used his phone in similar situations “thousands of times.” Johnson also stated that later that night, he deleted the images from his cell, along with a text thread with the command post’s deputy. 

Lawyers for Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, argued that after the law enforcement official sent out the images, they were sent out to at least 10 others. They further claim that said individuals allegedly sent them to other members of the public. During the trial, L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Joey Cruz was said to have shown the photos to patrons at a bar/grill. With that, in court, bartender Victor Gutierrez addressed claims that he laughed when shown the images, denying that he did so.

Much has been said about the personal effects the 2020 tragedy has had on Vanessa Bryant. Aside from the photos taken by first responders, her legal team has also brought taunting social media messages into the proceedings. However, the only posts that can be used are those that were sent to her after the deaths of Kobe, Gianna and the helicopter's other seven passengers became public knowledge. 

The Kobe Bryant photos have resulted in a few other legal situations, including the lawsuit filed by the aforementioned Christopher Chester. Like Bryant’s widow, Chester is suing for negligence and invasion of privacy over the photos being taken. At one point, it seemed as though the two cases might be consolidated, though L.A. County argued that Chester could not ride Vanessa’s “coattails,” so to speak. Another suit was also filed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s union in relation to the release of the final internal affairs reports on the crash. That Bryant-related case has since settled, though.

Testimony in Vanessa Bryant and L.A. County’s court case is set to continue today. If the judge finds fault with the distribution of the photos and rules in her favor at the end of the trial, Bryant could receive the millions of dollars she's currently seeking.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.