Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy at the center of a lawsuit brought by Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, accusing first responders of improperly taking photos at the site of the helicopter crash that killed him killed, is under fire again – this time, on video that shows him kneeling on an inmate’s head for three minutes in March 2021.
Vanessa Bryant sued County in September 2020, months after a helicopter carrying the Los Angeles Lakers legend and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna slammed into a hill in Calabasas, California. All nine people on board, who were at the time traveling to a youth basketball game in foggy weather, were killed in the tragedy.
In his defense, Los Angeles County filed papers Friday seeking to block the clip of Deputy Douglas Johnson and his confrontation with an inmate inside a San Fernando courthouse, according to USA Today. It begins when Johnson and another deputy demand that two inmates in the holding area stop talking. Yet the pair continue to laugh and joke, prompting Johnson to approach one of the men, Enzo Escalante, and order him to face the wall.
According to video obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the deputy can be seen walking by Escalante, who then suddenly turns around and punches Johnson in the face. The other inmate is almost immediately swept away as Johnson struggles against Escalante on the ground.
About 20 seconds into the confrontation, Johnson kneels on Escalante’s head, then remains in the position for a good three minutes, even after the inmate appears obedient.
The incident unfolded around the same time as jury selection for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was later convicted of the murder of George Floyd. The Minneapolis police officer was filmed kneeling on Floyd, 46,’s neck until he became unresponsive. Johnson’s courthouse confrontation, however, only came to light in March 2022, when the Los Angeles Times reported that sheriff’s officials allegedly tried to cover it up in an effort to avoid bad publicity.
It also came just over a year after the devastating death of 41-year-old Bryant.
Johnson was among those who responded to the crash site on January 26, 2020. He was identified as the deputy who took several graphic close-ups of the NBA superstar and his daughter’s remains with his cellphone personal.
The footage eventually circulated among at least eight MPs.
The county in court documents argued that the two incidents had nothing to do with each other, which should therefore prevent prosecutors from introducing the video of Johnson kneeling on Escalante as evidence.
“The only reason Plaintiff would seek testimony about Deputy Johnson’s altercation with the inmate and LASD’s response is to challenge the character of Deputy Johnson and Sheriff Villanueva,” the county said. . “It’s inappropriate.”
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney says he is eager to resolve the case in court.