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Justin Bieber calls for paparazzi laws after photographer dies trying to get a $100 shot

Pop superstar Justin Bieber called for a crackdown on paparazzi Wednesday after a photographer was killed as he tried to shoot pictures of Bieber's white Ferrari in Los Angeles — pictures that a veteran photographer said probably would have been worth no more than $100.

Gene Blevins / Reuters

Los Angeles police look over the car that struck and killed a celebrity photographer who was trying to take photographs of a Ferrari registered to pop star Justin Bieber on Jan. 1.

The photographer, a man in his late 20s whom police wouldn't identify until they can notify his next of kin, was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center shortly after he was run over by a passing motorist about 5:30 p.m. local time Tuesday, police said.

Authorities confirmed that Bieber, 18, wasn't in the Ferrari. It was being driven by a friend, whom they wouldn't identify, and it wasn't involved in the accident, police said. 

David Allocca, who's photographed celebrities for many years, told NBC News that even if Bieber had been in the car, any shot the man took would likely have been worth little.

"A plain photo of Bieber in his car? Probably around $100, not more than $500," said Allocca, who's photographed Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Nicole Kidman and both Presidents Bush in a 30-year career. "I can guarantee that."

The incident took place after a California Highway Patrol officer flagged the Ferrari for speeding on the northbound lanes of Interstate 405, said Madeline Nightingale, watch commander of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Traffic Bureau. The car then exited at Sepulveda Boulevard and Getty Center Drive, she told NBC News.

During the traffic stop, the photographer crossed the busy Sepulveda thoroughfare, which runs parallel to the 405, and tried to shoot photos of the vehicle's occupants from a perch on the narrow divider, she said.

The Highway Patrol officer on the scene repeatedly warned the man that his position was dangerous, she said. The man was then struck by a car traveling southbound on Sepulveda, Nightingale said.

No charges were expected to be filed against the motorist, who stopped and tried to administer assistance, Nightingale told NBC News. The driver was a woman with two young children in the vehicle, Nightingale said.

Police in Los Angeles are investigating the death of a photographer who was hit by a car while trying to take pictures of a white Ferrari owned by pop star Justin Bieber. TODAY's Willie Geist reports.

Thibault Mauvilain, a celebrity photographer who went to the scene of Tuesday's accident, told reporters that he knew the photographer who was killed.

"He always played by the rules. I'm not aware of him doing anything illegal," Mauvilain said, according to NBC 4 of Los Angeles. 

NBC Los Angeles: Man killed attempting to photograph Justin Bieber's Ferrari

"Some people will say he's just another crazy paparazzo trying to make the money. Actually, he was not a paparazzo. He was just another kid from New Mexico."

'Hopefully this tragedy will finally inspire meaningful legislation'
In a statement Wednesday, Bieber said: "While I was not present nor directly involved with this tragic accident, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim."

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Justin Bieber wasn't in the car at the time of Tuesday's incident, police said.

He added: "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."

Justin Bieber tosses water bottle at Miami paparazzi

In fact, California has such a law. In 2010, the state cracked down on paparazzi, adding extra penalties for photographers who drive dangerously in pursuit of pictures they intend to sell. 

But in November — in a case also involving a photographer who was hoping to get pictures of Bieber at a traffic stop — a Superior Court judge refused to apply it, saying it was unconstitutional.

Los Angeles City Council member Dennis Zine — who witnessed a previous paparazzi pursuit of Bieber in July, which ended with a photographer's being struck by a motorist — called on lawmakers Wednesday to give the law even more teeth.

"Unfortunately, the State law that passed in 2010 was not successful in a recent court case, so I would urge our State legislators to revisit the statute and make amendments in order to strengthen it and make it more effective," Zine, a Los Angeles reserve police officer, said in a statement.

The behavior of celebrity photographers has been widely denounced ever since 1997, when Princess Diana died in a French auto accident that was initially blamed on pursuing photographers. The wreck was subsequently blamed on Diana's driver.

The market value for many celebrity shots has fallen in recent years, Allocca said, and now it takes a "great photo" to earn big money.

Justin Bieber is the most Googled person on Earth. The pop star started as a viral sensation. He and his manager, Scooter Braun, discussed Bieber's journey and his future with Ryan Seacrest.

"With Instagram, with Twitter, with cellphones — everyone's got a point-and-shoot, everyone's got a camera wherever you go," he said.

"If he had a joint in his mouth, maybe a million bucks, to somebody," Allocca said. "But no one outlet is paying that money. Magazines aren't the first to get it anymore. The Internet gets it."

But celebrities continue to get caught up in dangerous incidents involving paparazzi:

  • In June 2011, Tori Spelling backed her car into the wall of her children's school in Tarzana, Calif., as she was being pursued by a photographer.

"Wht will it take?" Spelling tweeted at the time. "Someone dying for paparazzi to stop?"

  • In October 2009, a car driven by Nicole Richie was rear-ended by a car carrying two photographers in Beverly Hills, Calif. The driver was arrested and found to have no driver's license.
  • The same month, Brad Pitt was riding a motorcycle in Los Angeles when a photographer trying to get a picture rear-ended the actor with his car. Pitt and the motorcycle fell over, but he was uninjured.
  • In 2010, a photographer claimed that he was badly injured when a car in which Lindsay Lohan was riding ran him over outside a Hollywood nightclub. The photographer sued Lohan in January 2011; Lohan asked a court to dismiss the suit last summer.
  • In June, Lohan was involved in another crash when her rented Porsche ran into a truck in Santa Monica, Calif., while allegedly fleeing a pack of chasing paparazzi.

Allocca said it was "stupid" that the photographer who was killed Tuesday died over a picture that eventually would have little value.

"All I can say is remember the New Kids on the Block. Remember Hanson," he said.

"Bieber will be there shortly as well." 

Daniel Strieff of NBC News contributed to this report.

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