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Prince Harry, Meghan Markle in car chase involving paparazzi that spokesperson calls "near catastrophic"

Paparazzi pursue Harry, Meghan in New York City
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were chased by paparazzi in New York City, spokesperson says 03:21

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were in a "near catastrophic car chase" involving paparazzi in New York City Tuesday night, his spokesperson said.

"This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD (New York Police Department) officers," the spokesperson said. 

The chase was "at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi," according to the statement.

However, two law enforcement sources told CBS News no one was in danger during the pursuit. Paparazzi followed Harry and Meghan as they circled, trying to lose them and not give away where they were staying in the city, the sources said, and the couple eventually switched vehicles and got away. 

The pair were in New York for the Ms. Foundation Women of Vision Awards, which they attended with Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland. Harry's spokesperson said Ragland was also with them during the chase. 

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex are seen on May 16, 2023 in New York City.
Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex are seen on May 16, 2023 in New York City. MEGA/GC Images via Getty Images

It happened after Harry and Meghan left the event at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan, on their way to the Upper East Side, CBS New York reported. They eventually got out of their car and hopped into a taxi cab.

"I was crossing 67th Street and the security guard hailed me. And the next thing you know Prince Harry and his wife were hopping into my cab," the cab driver, Sunny Singh, said. "And as we went a block, we got blocked by a garbage truck, and all of a sudden, paparazzis came, and they started taking pictures. And then... they were just about to tell me their location, where they were going to go, but then they told me to circle back to the precinct. So we circled back to the precinct."  

The NYPD said in a statement that officers "assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex," adding, "There were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests in regard."

Celebrity news agency Backgrid USA confirmed at least four of the photographers pursuing the couple were freelancing for the agency. 

"We want to clarify that we have received photos and videos of last night's events from four freelance photographers, three of whom were in cars and one of whom was riding a bicycle," Backgrid said in a statement Wednesday evening. 

The agency said that according to its photographers, who it noted had "a professional responsibility" to cover public figures such as Harry and Meghan, there were no near-collisions or near-crashes. The photographers "had no intention of causing any distress or harm, as their only tool was their cameras. A few of the photos even show Meghan Markle smiling inside a cab," the statement said. It added that, according to the agency's photographers, one of the four SUVs of Prince Harry's security escort "was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless."

Harry's mother, Princess Diana, died in a tragic car crash in 1997 as paparazzi chased a car carrying her and her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, through the streets of Paris.

Asked if felt like the paparazzi were being aggressive when Harry and Meghan were in his cab, Singh said no.

"No, no, no, no. They were behind us. I mean, they stayed on top of us that was pretty much to it. There was nothing more. You know, they kept their distance. They're just journalists just like everybody else trying to get pictures, trying to make a quick buck," he said. 

He added that the Sussexes were good tippers.

"Yeah, it was great, man. Ten minute drive, $50. What else can you ask for, right? You can't beat that," he said. 

Cab driver speaks out about paparazzi chase with Prince Harry, Meghan 02:47

New York City Mayor Eric Adams commented on the incident Wednesday, calling it "reckless and irresponsible."

"I don't think there's many of us who don't recall how his mom died," Adams said, adding that it would be "horrific" to lose an innocent bystander during a chase, or for something to have happened to Harry and Meghan.

Adams didn't provide details on the incident and said he would be briefed in-depth later on Wednesday. 

The incident in New York comes after a suspect was arrested at the couple's home in Montecito at around 2 a.m. on Monday. The suspect, identified as 29-year-old Kevin Garcia Valdovinos, was placed under citizen's arrest by a staff member near the home's service entrance, a spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office told CBS News.

The police arrived and he was charged with stalking. He was booked in jail and released on $2,500 bail, the spokesperson said. 

Pat Milton contributed to this report.

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