Harry and Meghan ‘paparazzi car chase’ was not ‘near catastrophic’, NYPD officials suggest
Prince Harry, his wife Meghan and her mother were involved in a “near catastrophic” car chase after being followed by paparazzi for more than two hours, according to his spokesperson.
But two New York police officials have played down the incident saying they do not believe the chase was “near catastrophic” and described a “bit of a chaotic scene”.
The Sussexes had been driven around 57th street and nearby roads for around an hour and 15 minutes as they were followed by paparazzi before they were dropped off at the New York City Police Department’s 19th precinct, officers have said.
A taxi driver who picked up Harry, Meghan and her mother Doria Ragland outside the precinct around 15 minutes later said photographers tried to take photos and capture videos during their short time in his car.
Sukhcharn Singh told The Washington Post: “I don’t think I would call it a chase. I never felt like I was in danger.
“It wasn’t like a car chase in a movie. (Harry and Meghan) were quiet and seemed scared but it’s New York – it’s safe.”
Mr Singh also said his car was pursued by two vehicles – a black Honda Accord and an older grey Honda CR-V.
He continued: “(Photographers) kept following us and were coming next to the car. They took pictures as we stopped and were filming us.”
Mr Singh also said he got the impression from the Sussexes that they had already been pursued by paparazzi before they got in his car.
The journey only lasted around 10 minutes as Harry and Meghan’s security guard grew concerned about the photographers and asked Mr Singh to return to the precinct where he had initially picked them up.
Meanwhile, New York’s mayor Eric Adams has said two police officers could have been injured as they assisted Harry and Meghan’s private security team while their car was being followed.
The pursuit took place after the Sussexes had attended an awards ceremony at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York on Tuesday – their first public appearance since the King’s coronation.
Harry’s spokesperson said: “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 involved.”
Julian Phillips, the deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department, has said officers “assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex”.
He continued: “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.”
Analysis: It’s impossible not to be reminded of Diana
What has Prince Harry previously said about the paparazzi?
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New York’s mayor said later: “The press or paparazzi, you know, they want to get the right shot, they want to get the right story.
“But public safety must always be at the forefront. In a briefing I received (I heard) two of our officers could have been injured… I don’t think there’s many of us who don’t recall how (Harry’s) mum died.
“It would be horrific to lose the innocent bystander during a chase like this and something to have happened to them as well.”
Mr Adams added he believes the behaviour of those following the Sussexes was “reckless and irresponsible”.
Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace have not commented.
Timeline of the car chase
Police sources in New York have given the following breakdown of what happened on Tuesday night.
:: Harry and Meghan leave the Ziegfeld Ballroom with private security with them at around 10pm local time. Police say the couple wanted to go back to where they were staying on the Upper East Side.
:: Harry and Meghan didn’t want paparazzi to know where they were going so they were driven across 57th street and other streets for about an hour and fifteen minutes. One NYPD vehicle was escorting their vehicle.
:: The Sussexes were driven to the 19th precinct and stayed there around 15 minutes. Police helped get the pair get off the block and they got into a different car. They got to their residence without being followed. Police have said it was a bit of a chaotic scene.
Harry, Meghan and Ms Ragland were reportedly followed by half a dozen blacked-out vehicles which were being driven by unidentified people.
The vehicles are said to have driven on pavements, jumped red lights and reversed down a one-way street.
It has also been said at least one driver was using their phone behind the wheel.
At least one other is reported to have been photographing while driving.
One of the cars is said to have illegally blocked a moving vehicle.
Those pursuing the Sussexes are said to have been confronted by uniformed police multiple times but continued their pursuit.
Harry and Meghan are thought to have been staying at a private residence and did not want to compromise the security of their friend’s home.
Omid Scobie, who wrote the book “Finding Freedom” about Harry and Meghan, has tweeted to say a source has said the Sussexes and Ms Ragland are “understandably shaken but thankful everyone’s safe”.
Analysis: The paparazzi appear prepared to hunt and hound the Sussexes whatever the risks
It’s impossible not to be reminded of Diana. A relentless pursuit, photographers recklessly driving, and all for a picture of people in the back of a car.
By the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s account, what happened in Manhattan was frightening, dangerous, and very nearly fatal.
Prince Harry attracts huge attention and he knows a public outing with Meghan – the first since the coronation – would entice even more interest. But he certainly won’t have expected this.
The US is his home now – one of the reasons he moved was to escape the British press. Except the press are everywhere, and the appetite for a photo of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex together seems insatiable.
In the past, Harry has spoken about paparazzi jumping on the bonnet of his car.
But of course, most poignantly he’s spoken at length about Diana’s relationship with the press, and the incessant intrusion he experienced growing up.
Losing his mother has made him even more protective of his own young family. In a recent interview, he said: “I never want to be in that position… I don’t want history to repeat itself.”
What happened on the streets of Manhattan, a world away from royal life, shows us two significant things.
Firstly, there remains a clamouring media interest in the couple, with paparazzi hunting and hounding them.
And secondly, perhaps more worryingly, they are prepared to do so whatever the risks.
Pictures that have appeared on social media have shown Harry, Meghan and her mother Ms Ragland in a taxi.
The Duchess of Sussex had encouraged women to fight for equity at the Ms. Foundation for Women’s annual gala.
“It’s never too late to start,” she said at the event in New York. “You can be the visionary of your own life… There is still so much work to be done.”
Harry and Meghan stepped down from their royal roles in 2020 and moved to the United States partly because of what they described as intense media harassment.
The prince has long spoken out about his anger about press intrusion which he blames for the death of his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed when her limousine crashed as it sped away from chasing paparazzi in Paris in 1997.
The car chase comes after a man was reportedly arrested outside Harry and Meghan’s home for stalking in the early hours of Monday, according to TMZ.
A representative for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office told the celebrity news site they got a call from security staffers at the couple’s LA mansion at around 2am local time.