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Deputies, Paparazzo Cooperate on Probe Into Pellet Gun Attack

Times Staff Writers

The investigation into the pellet gun shooting of a paparazzo outside Britney Spears’ baby shower has taken on the drama of one of the pop star’s sugary ballads.

Laguna Beach photographer Brad Diaz at first was upset, believing that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies weren’t taking the case seriously, comparing his injury to a bee sting and dismissing his suspicions that one of Spears’ security guards had shot him, his attorney said.

Sheriff’s officials, in turn, said the investigation stalled early on because Diaz wouldn’t cooperate with them, declining to talk to a detective and instead referring the investigator to his attorney.

Now, everyone is talking -- with the possible exception of Spears. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore would not say whether detectives planned to interview Spears as part of the investigation. Calls to Spears’ publicists were not returned.

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And both sides are saying they will do everything they can to solve the case.

“We’ve treated this investigation as we do all investigations, with seriousness and integrity,” said Whitmore. “We’ve talked to everybody who’s been willing to talk to us, and we will continue to encourage those who haven’t talked to us to come forward.”

“The main thing we want to do right now is make sure there’s a thorough and complete investigation,” said Diaz’s lawyer, Cameron Stewart. “We’re certain that they’ll do a good job.”

The 32-year-old freelance photographer was struck in the left thigh by a pellet Aug. 6 while he was standing across the street from a Malibu home where Spears was having a baby shower.

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The pellet was embedded about half an inch in Diaz’s leg, and doctors declined to remove it surgically.

According to a sheriff’s crime report, Diaz looked toward the house after he was shot and saw three men laughing before they stepped out of view. Those men have not been identified.

A sheriff’s detective interviewed Spears’ security guards and they denied involvement. Investigators also plan to review medical records and consult experts on pellet guns while looking for leads that could help them determine where the gunman was standing when the shot was fired.

Deputies who initially responded to the scene minimized the injury and seemed to believe that Diaz was to blame for the shooting, Stewart said.

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“When deputies first talked to him, they downplayed it and, according to Mr. Diaz, made it appear it was his fault. One of the things they said to him was, ‘You’re not really injured. It’s as minor as a bee sting,’ ” Stewart said. “They pointed the finger at Mr. Diaz because he happened to be part of the paparazzi. He felt that no matter what he did, they were not going to conduct a full and complete investigation.”

Diaz declined to be interviewed for this story. Stewart said that Diaz now believes the Sheriff’s Department is investigating the shooting, and he is cooperating with the inquiry.

“This is a very serious incident. The injury could have been more serious than it is,” she said. “You don’t want people walking around shooting other people with pellet guns just because they may not like where someone is standing.

“If you let it go here, it’s just going to get worse,” Stewart said. “People can’t be allowed to think they can do whatever they want to prevent people from taking their pictures.”

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