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CHP had warned Justin Beiber photographer, sources say

January 3, 2013 |  3:52 pm

Photo: Frances Merto, girlfriend of photographer Chris Guerra, stands at a memorial along Sepulveda Blvd. near Getty Center Drive. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

A California Highway Patrol officer had warned a photographer to stop taking photos of Justin Bieber's Ferrari moments before the paparazzo was fatally struck by an oncoming car, law enforcement sources said.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office confirmed Christopher James Guerra, 29, was the man fatally struck Tuesday by an SUV while crossing Sepulveda Boulevard near Getty Center Drive. Guerra's hometown was not known.

The incident took place shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday when a CHP officer pulled the sports car over on the 405 Freeway. The photographer arrived near the scene on Sepulveda, left his car and crossed the street to take photos.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the CHP told him to leave the area. As he was returning to his vehicle, he was hit by the SUV.

A friend of Bieber's was driving the car at the time, officials said. The pop singer was not in the vehicle.

Law enforcement sources said Wednesday it was unlikely charges would be filed against the driver of the SUV that hit the photographer.

Bieber called the death a "tragic accident" and said he hoped it would spur new paparazzi laws.

"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 in a statement released by his spokesperson. "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."

Veteran paparazzo Frank Griffin took issue with the criticism being directed at the photographer, as well as other paparazzi.

"What's the difference between our guy who got killed under those circumstances and the war photographer who steps on a land mine in Afghanistan and blows himself to pieces because he wanted the photograph on the other side of road?" said Griffin, who co-owns the photo agency Griffin-Bauer.

"The only difference is the subject matter. One is a celebrity and the other is a battle. Both young men have left behind mothers and fathers grieving, and there's no greater sadness in this world than parents who have to bury their children."

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— Kate Mather, Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Frances Merto, girlfriend of photographer Chris Guerra, stands at a memorial along Sepulveda Blvd. near Getty Center Drive. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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