A man was struck by a car and killed in Los Angeles last night while tailing Justin Bieber‘s Ferrari, which had been pulled over by the California Highway Patrol in an apparently routine traffic stop. It was unclear at first whether Bieber was in the car at the time. It was confirmed shortly afterward that the singer was not present and had lent his car to a couple of friends. TMZ this morning identified the paparazzo as freelance photographer Chris Guerra, 29.
Bieber released a statement today expressing condolences but also calling for laws preventing such hazardous celebrity-stalking incidents. “While I was not present nor directly involved with this tragic accident, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim,” reads Bieber’s statement. “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.”
The photographer had parked his own car at the side of L.A.’s Sepulveda Blvd. and crossed several lanes of traffic to the other side of the road, where Bieber’s Ferrari had been pulled over from the 405 freeway via an exit ramp. He was reportedly instructed twice by CHP officers to return to his car, and was struck while crossing back across the street. The Daily Mail reports that the woman driving the Toyota SUV that hit the photog immediately called 911 and then stopped other cars from driving over him. The man died a short time later at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
The controversy around celebrity photographers and public safety (and yes, as Biebs or his handlers point out, the paparazzi’s own safety) is certainly not a new story — though this accident will redirect attention toward it. Bieber has been particularly tied to this issue ever since he got his driver’s licence, as his own need for speed on the roads has prompted recklessness from the paps. A shot of Justin getting a traffic citation is some lucrative low-hanging fruit for a celebrity chaser — provided that photog is willing to put his or herself, and others, in harm’s way. Just how high those stakes can be became painfully clear last night. Paparazzi have been fined and cautioned before; could it be that it took one being killed on the job to get some real changes underway?
Even those celeb-watchers among us know there is a line, and that a snap of some random dudes sitting in a famous teenager’s white Ferrari were not worth a man’s life or all the trauma this situation will cause for his family, the other driver, the police, witnesses, and even Justin Bieber himself.