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Prince Harry, Meghan involved in "near catastrophic car chase" with paparazzi in NYC, spokesperson says

NYPD investigating paparazzi chase involving Prince Harry, Meghan
NYPD investigating paparazzi chase involving Prince Harry, Meghan 03:10

NEW YORK -- Britain's Prince Harry, his wife Meghan and her mother were involved in a "near catastrophic car chase" in New York City on Tuesday night, their office said. 

It happened after an awards ceremony at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Midtown. 

The couple had just attended the ceremony by the Ms. Foundation for Women, which honored Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. 

It took place once the couple and Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, left the ceremony. Neither Harry nor Meghan were injured.  

The following is the full statement from their office: 

"Last night, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms. Ragland were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.

"This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers. While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone's safety.

"Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all in involved."

NYPD sources tell CBS New York several cars followed the car Harry and Meghan were in after they left an event at the Ziegfield Ballroom. Those same sources say they're now reviewing video evidence to piece together exactly what happened.

Zara Sayeed was in the crowd outside trying to catch a glimpse of the couple.

"A lot of the paparazzi were heckling Meghan and Harry," she said. "As they were leaving, the way they chase the car, it just reminds you of all the other scenes you've seen in the past with Prince Harry's mother."

"You had cars, cars and scooters, riding into traffic the wrong way," one man said.

Security expert on NYPD handling of Prince Harry, Meghan visit 03:33

Law enforcement sources tell CBS News that after leaving the event around 10 p.m., the couple did not want paparazzi to know where they were staying, so they circled Midtown for more than an hour with NYPD squad cars providing crowd control.

Police say while Harry and Meghan were not in danger, two uniformed officers could have been injured at one point.

The NYPD initially said officially "the incident is under investigation." However, in a new statement, the NYPD offered its own assessment of what happened: 

"On [Tuesday] evening, May 16, the NYPD assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 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."

Sukhcharn Singh drove the couple in his yellow cab for about 10 minutes of this whole ordeal.

"I think that's all, you know, exaggerated and stuff like that," he said.

He says while they were in his car, he didn't see paparazzi acting particularly aggressive.

"No, no, no. No, that must have happened earlier, if they were being chased before," Singh said.

Watch Tim McNicholas' report

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

They eventually went to a police precinct, where the couple switched cars and returned safely to where they were staying.

"This is a situation that many celebrities go through, but Harry and Meghan are, particularly for the British paparazzi, top money," royal expert Kate Williams said.

Mayor Eric Adams blasted those who pursued Harry and Meghan as "reckless and irresponsible." 

"It's clear that the press, paparazzi, they want to get the right shot, they want to get the right story. But public safety must always be at the forefront. The briefing I received, two of our officers could've been injured. New York City is different from some small town somewhere. You shouldn't be speeding anywhere, but this is a densely populated city. And I think all of us, I don't think there's many of us, who don't recall how his mom died. And it would be horrific to lose an innocent bystander during a chase like this and something to have happened to them as well," Adams said. "So I think we have to be extremely responsible. I thought that was a bit reckless and irresponsible," Adams said. "I would find it hard to believe that there was a two hour high speed chase, that would be - I'd find that hard to believe. But we will find out the exact duration of it. But if it's 10 minutes, a 10 minute chase is extremely dangerous in New York City. We have a lot of traffic, a lot of movement, a lot of people are using our streets. Any type of high speed chase that involves something of that nature is inappropriate."

"Police do it under limited circumstances, when they're going after violent people. But to do it because you want to get the right shot can turn out to be a place where people can be harmed in a real way," Adams added.

John Miller, the NYPD's former deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, spoke about the incident on CNN.

"This originally came in as a story about, you know, they had a car accident yesterday, which apparently is not the case. What the case is, speaking to people around the protective detail that was assigned to this, was they were overwhelmed by paparazzi. These were people in cars. These were people on motorcycles. These were people on scooters that had surrounded the vehicle in Midtown traffic," Miller said. "And now you've got the NYPD team that is the protective detail behind the principal car, and there's scooters, and motorcycles running in between them, ahead of them, crossing in front of them. They're trying to create some distance, and this is becoming worse and worse. So finally, in frustration, they made a command decision of, you know, trying to first slow down traffic, block a street, and get some distance. That didn't work, because then the scooters and the motorcycles flew down the sidewalks with pedestrians scattering," Miller said. "So they went to the 19th Precinct. That's 67th Street in Manhattan. They blocked off both ends of the street, they created basically a buffer. And then they spent some time, A, trying to cool down from this and say 'Alright, what's our strategic plan to get to the next location without bringing this entire crowd.'"

While the NYPD is well-practiced in protecting presidents and even kings, Miller says the Sussexes pose a unique security challenge.

"When you take royals and tabloids internationally and put them together, you get a certain press hysteria that doesn't fit the normal mold, and that's what they confronted yesterday," he said.

Harry and Meghan have long been outspoken about aggressive paparazzi, and Harry has stated in the past he feels it was the overzealous paparazzi that caused the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 as her limousine was chased by paparazzi in Paris.

In a statement, the media company Backgrid said four freelance photographers whom they work with and were there Tuesday night reported "there were no near-collisions or near-crashes during this incident."

This all comes as Prince Harry is challenging the British government in court for its decision to deny him the right to pay for police protection when he visits the United Kingdom.

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