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Sheriff to Probe Pellet Attack

Times Staff Writer

Normally a man injured by a shot from a pellet gun would not warrant much attention from sheriff’s deputies in the nation’s largest county.

A victim’s name is taken down. A report is filed. If things were slow, maybe in a few weeks someone would look into it.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Aug. 10, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 10, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Photographer’s injury --Articles in the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday California sections about a photographer shot by a pellet gun outside Britney Spears’ baby shower in Malibu gave an incorrect time for the shooting. Paparazzo Brad Diaz was struck in the thigh at 5:50 p.m. Saturday, not 7:50 p.m.

But that all changes when the man shot is a paparazzo staking out Britney Spears at her baby shower in Malibu.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Sunday that it would assign a detective first thing this morning to investigate the Saturday night shooting of Brad Diaz.

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They said he was released from the hospital with a Band-Aid on his thigh hours after the incident.

“Because of the media attention, we’ll probably put this on the front burner to settle the whole thing,” said Sgt. Robert Knudson of the Lost Hills sheriff’s station.

Even though he noted that “this doesn’t even rise to the level of assault with a deadly weapon,” his office had received calls from almost two-dozen media outlets.

Diaz, who could not be reached for comment, said the shot had come from the direction of the hilltop property he was watching with more than a dozen other photographers, Knudson said.

Spears’ security team told authorities the pop star was attending a baby shower in her honor and that they were not involved in the shooting.

Spears’ publicist did not return calls for comment.

Though the shooter has yet to be identified, some on both sides of paparazzi confrontations are suggesting that the incident is another sign of the increasingly dangerous cat-and-mouse game between the celebrity A-list and those who sell their images for big bucks.

“There’s a lot more tension and a lot more aggression on both parts,” said Howard Bragman, a longtime Hollywood public relations consultant. As paparazzi get more aggressive, stars are becoming more defensive, he said. The Los Angeles district attorney’s office in May announced new measures to crack down on overzealous paparazzi, including the possible use of felony conspiracy charges. The move came after a photographer was arrested for allegedly ramming his minivan into the car of teen star Lindsay Lohan.

Members of the paparazzi insist that most of their ranks do not employ such tactics.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an AK-47, a bazooka or a BB gun. The guy got shot,” said Frank Griffin, a native of Britain and co-founder of Bauer-Griffin, a leading American paparazzi agency.

“Even if the guy was trespassing, I don’t know whether you Americans then think it’s OK to shoot them,” he said.

On Saturday, his agency had two photographers on the ground and another overhead in a helicopter. He said the 10 or so other agencies in the city all had people there too.

Until recent years, the market was driven by the news value of celebrity photos. Only shots that documented a hot celeb’s new affair, failed plastic surgery or sudden weight gain really brought the big money, several photographers said.

But now, “any picture of any celebrity has a value,” Griffin said. “It’s overkill.”

Driving the change are the many publications willing to pay dollar amounts that “look a lot like telephone numbers” for celebrity photos, Griffin said. “It’s like the gold rush. There’s gold in them there Hollywood Hills.”

John Perry, who co-owns Sunset Protective Services, a company that protects celebrities from paparazzi, said Saturday’s incident didn’t surprise him. “Tensions at times ride high.”

Perry and his partner, both retired Sheriff’s deputies, offer what they call “paparazzi abatement.”

“We photograph, follow, document and generally make life miserable to be a paparazzi. If they become a problem for us, I would ask myself how can I make his life miserable,” Perry said. “We have a good sense of humor, but we’re not going to break the law.”


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