Justin Bieber offered condolences Wednesday to the family of a paparazzo who was struck and killed while crossing a busy street in the Sepulveda Pass after photographing the singer's pulled-over Ferrari, but the pop sensation also called for tougher laws restricting celebrity photographers' actions.
"While I was not present nor directly involved with this tragic accident, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim," Bieber said. "Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation and whatever other necessary steps to protect the lives and safety of celebrities, police officers, innocent bystanders and the photographers themselves."
A photographer was fatally struck by a 2007 Toyota Highlander Tuesday night at approximately 5:50 p.m. along Sepulveda Boulevard at Getty Center Drive in Brentwood, police said. Multiple news outlets identified the photographer as Chris Guerra, 29, of New Mexico.
A friend of Bieber's was driving the singer's car and was stopped for speeding at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday by a California Highway Patrol officer on the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway at Getty Center Drive, investigators said.
The driver of the white Ferrari exited the freeway and stopped at Sepulveda and Getty Center. Bieber was not in the car, CHP officer Mike Harris told City News Service. The celebrity website TMZ.com reported the driver of the car was rapper Lil Twist, who had been with Bieber Tuesday afternoon at a Beverly Hills hotel.
The photographer had parked his car across the street, crossed Sepulveda Boulevard and took some pictures of the vehicle, police said.
"He was warned by the CHP to get out of there," Los Angeles police Officer Emilson Saint Julien of the West Traffic Bureau said.
A 69-year-old woman driving the Toyota on Sepulveda struck the photographer as he was crossing the street back toward his vehicle, police said.
"He was crossing from the west side toward his vehicle on the east side. The car was going south on Sepulveda toward him and he was thrown north," Saint Julien said.
The woman made a U-turn and used her vehicle to prevent others from hitting the photographer while she called 911, Saint Julien said. Paramedics took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The female motorist was interviewed and sent home to care for her children, although her car remained at the crash scene, according to Saint Julien, who said the woman did not appear to be at fault because the photographer was in the wrong place.
"He was a pedestrian on a roadway outside a crosswalk," Saint Julien said. "Crossing Sepulveda is almost like crossing a freeway."
Police noted the woman did not show any signs of drug or alcohol impairment while at the scene of the collision.
TMZ reported that Guerra, who was single and had no children, worked at a Las Vegas casino for several years and moved to Los Angeles in March to become a paparazzo, and he had been following Bieber exclusively in recent months.
A friend at scene, Thibault Mauvilain, told ABC7 that Guerra freelanced for several outlets and was "just a kid from New Mexico."
"He loved the people he was following," Mauvilain told the station. "It's too risky and the money's just not there anymore. And even though we try to stay within limits of whatever is legal, this is a dangerous job."
In 2010, the state Legislature passed a law aimed at cracking down the activities of aggressive paparazzi. A photographer named Paul Raef was the first to be charged under the law earlier this summer when he allegedly chased Bieber on the Hollywood (101) Freeway in the San Fernando Valley.
But in November, a Van Nuys Superior Court judge threw out those charges, calling the law "problematic" and "overly inclusive."
Raef is still facing misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and failing to obey the orders of a peace officer.