January 3, 2013

Justin Bieber-chasing paparazzi struck and killed by SUV told friends he was trying to photograph star smoking weed

Chris Guerra was killed when he was struck by a car trying to photograph Justin Bieber's Ferrari in Los Angeles on New Year's Day.

A Los Angeles paparazzo who thought he spied Justin Bieber smoking weed was struck and killed by a car as he rushed to photograph the pop star’s Ferrari after it had been pulled over by cops.

The teen pop sensation was not even behind the wheel — the relentless shutterbug died chasing a bad lead that later reignited a debate about paparazzi culture in the celeb-mad City of Angels.

The fatal sequence of events began Tuesday at the Four Seasons hotel, where freelance photographer Chris Guerra, who had been dogging Bieber’s clique all day, thought he saw the singer smoking marijuana and staked out the building.

“If it takes me all night, I’m staying out here, I’m getting this story,” the 29-year-old told a friend, according to TMZ. “He was smoking weed. I hope something comes of this.”

The photographer, who had only moved to L.A. in March, likely thought he was on a huge story, another friend told the Daily News.

“He was probably in the rush of thinking, ‘I’m getting an exclusive story,’ ” said Thibault Mauvilain, 32, who works in celebrity marketing.

When the ostentatious vehicle left the hotel, Guerra gave chase, not knowing the car was being driven by Bieber pal, and Lil Wayne protege, Lil Twist.

At 5:50 p.m., the California Highway Patrol pulled over the $200,000 ride for speeding on the 405 freeway, LAPD spokesman Chris No said. Cops then ordered the driver off the freeway and onto nearby Sepulveda Blvd.

Guerra arrived and crossed Sepulveda to get a shot of the moment, still thinking he was about to capture Bieber in an embarrassing — and possibly explosive — moment.

Cops instructed Guerra to return to his car. He eventually complied, and was struck walking across the four-lane road.

The singer put out a statement Wednesday calling the death “tragic.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim,” he 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 public bystanders, and the photographers themselves.”

The driver of the vehicle that struck Guerra was released without being charged, the LAPD spokesman said.

Bieber wasn’t the only celebrity calling for changes in laws governing the omnipresent photographers.

“Paparazzi are dangerous! Wasn’t Princess Di enough of a wake up call?!” tweeted Miley Cyrus, referring to the 1997 death of Diana in a Paris tunnel.

“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,” Cyrus added.

More restrained voices also called for reform, decrying the “Wild West atmosphere” in pursuit of candid moments of celebrities.

“We have warned that unless reform is enacted regarding the collision of celebrity vs. paparazzi, someone else would be hurt or killed,” wrote the Paparazzi Reform Initiative in a statement.

Guerra’s friend Mauvilain recalled him as a photographer who relished the adrenaline of chasing celebrities.

“I could see the sparkle in his eye. He was like, ‘Wow, man this is so cool,’” said Mauvilain. “There was always the possibility he could make a lot of money. . . . Chris was obviously fascinated by all the celebrities.”

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