Bieber calls for tough rules after paparazzo death
LOS ANGELES — The 29-year-old photographer had just snapped shots of Justin Bieber’s exotic white Ferrari when he was struck and killed by a passing car — a death that has spurred renewed debate over dangers paparazzi can bring on themselves and the celebrities they chase.
The accident prompted some stars including the teen heartthrob himself on Wednesday to renew their calls for tougher laws to rein in their pursuers, though previous urgings have been stymied by First Amendment protections.
In a statement, Bieber said his prayers were with the photographer’s family. Ironically, the singer wasn’t even in the Ferrari on Tuesday.
“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,” Bieber said in the statement released by Island Def Jam Music Group.
Paparazzi roaming the streets of Southern California have been commonplace for more than a decade as the shutterbugs looked to land exclusive shots that can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Industry veterans recalled incidents where paparazzi chasing celebrities have been injured, but they couldn’t remember a photographer being killed while working.
Six months ago, a paparazzo was charged with reckless driving in a high-speed pursuit of Bieber and with violating a 2010 California law that toughened punishment for those who drive dangerously in pursuit of photos for commercial gain.
However, a judge last month dismissed the paparazzi law charges, saying the law was overly broad.
The judge cited problems with the statute, saying it was aimed at newsgathering activities protected by the First Amendment, and lawmakers should have increased penalties for reckless driving rather than target those who photograph celebrities.
On Tuesday, a friend of Bieber’s was behind the wheel of the Ferrari when a California Highway Patrol officer pulled it over for speeding along Interstate 405, authorities said.
“This photographer evidently had been following the white Ferrari” and when it was pulled over after sundown he stopped, parked and crossed the street to snap photos, Los Angeles police Detective Charles Walton said.
The photographer stood on a low freeway railing to shoot photographs of the traffic stop over a chain-link fence, authorities said.
“The CHP officer told him numerous times that it wasn’t safe for him to be there and to return to his vehicle,” Walton said.