The Justin Bieber photographer death in Los Angeles on Tuesday is focusing renewed attention on the paparazzi business, as new details continue to emerge today. Chris Guerra, 29, was struck and killed crossing a street, after following Justin Bieber’s white Ferrari from a hotel and stopping to take pictures as the car was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol. The victim was hit by another motorist around 5:50 p.m. while crossing Sepulveda Boulevard near the Getty Center Drive exit of the L.A. 405 Freeway. Justin Bieber’s friend, 19 year-old rapper Lil Twist, was behind the wheel of the Ferrari, according to Fox News. Justin was not in the car, nor at the scene at the time. He later issued a statement of condolences for the victim’s family, as well as a call to action to prevent such incidences in the future. Miley Cyrus, certainly familiar with being hounded by photographers herself, wasn’t quite as diplomatic as Bieber however, taking to Twitter to chastise the paparazzi and their “dangerous” actions.
Justin Bieber’s white Ferrari was pulled over for speeding on the 405 and directed down onto Sepulveda Boulevard for the traffic stop. Photographer Chris Guerra had apparently followed the car from the time it emerged from a hotel, believing Justin was inside.
Guerra crossed the four-lane street and stood on a freeway railing to snap pics of the scene. A CHP officer repeatedly told him it was dangerous for him to be there and to return to his vehicle.
After the officer issued a ticket to Lil Twist the Ferrari left, and the photographer began to run back across the street. L.A. Police Detective Charles Walton said that’s when the victim was struck by a Toyota Highlander.
The Toyota was being driven by a 69 year-old Los Angeles woman with two of her grandchildren in the back seat. It is unclear at this point how fast the woman was traveling, but Guerra was carried 30 feet on the hood of the SUV.
Walton said, “The windshield was smashed in her car and there was glass all over the front seat”. The grandmother was distraught and was taken from the scene with the children by her husband.
The woman is not believed to be at fault at this point and charges are unlikely, police said. Walton added, “There were no sidewalks on the street there, there was no crossing place for a pedestrian, there was no reason to expect a pedestrian”.
The street is dark and winding at that spot as well, making it difficult to see a person crossing. It’s unclear at this point if the man was a professional full-time photographer or a freelancer.
Justin Bieber issued a statement saying, “While I was not present nor directly involved with this tragic accident, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim.
“Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent public bystanders, and the photographers themselves”, he said.
Miley Cyrus wasn’t as tactful as she ranted on Twitter following the accident. According to E! News, Miley tweeted, “Hope this paparazzi/JB accident brings on some changes in '13 Paparazzi are dangerous! Wasn't Princess Di enough of a wake up call?!”
Cyrus also wrote, “It is unfair for anyone to put this on to Justin's [conscience] as well! This was bound to happen! Your mom teaches u when your a child not to play in the street! The chaos that comes with the paparazzi acting like fools makes it impossible for anyone to make safe choices”.
As Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus call for renewed action to combat being followed by the paparazzi, it’s important to note the recent legal history in this area. In 2010 a California law toughened punishment for those who drive dangerously while in pursuit of photographs for commercial gain.
Ironically the first photographer to be charged under the law was Paul Raef last July. Authorities said Raef was arrested after chasing Justin Bieber on Interstate 101 at speeds in excess of 80 mph.
However, the judge in the case later dismissed the paparazzi law charges, claiming the law as written was overly broad, and violated First Amendment free-speech protections.