Deputies arrest four in crackdown on paparazzi
The price of chasing Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and other nightclub-hopping celebrities got steeper this week, at least for four paparazzi who were booked on charges arising from blocking sidewalks in West Hollywood.
The arrests, made by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies Tuesday night and early Wednesday, continued law enforcement efforts to crack down on aggressive paparazzi in the weeks since Spears was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. So many photographers, celebrity reporters and onlookers crowded the scene last month that patients and hospital staffers had trouble getting into the facility.
The intense scene led Los Angeles Police Department and sheriff’s officials to say they planned to use existing laws to crack down on what they described as increasingly aggressive paparazzi.
Authorities said their tools include anti-loitering ordinances, traffic laws and rules targeting infractions such as illegally tinted windows or paper license plates.
On Tuesday night and early Wednesday, sheriff’s deputies booked four photographers in two separate incidents of allegedly blocking sidewalks.
Deputies arrested David Tonnessen, 31, and Christian Shostele, 37, outside B2V Salon in West Hollywood shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday as they waited for Spears to finish inside the salon.
The men were among about 50 photographers, said sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore. The arrests came after the group refused deputies’ requests over a loudspeaker to disperse, he said.
Tonnessen was taken to the West Hollywood sheriff’s station, where he was ticketed for blocking an entrance, a misdemeanor, and released on $250 bail, authorities said. Shostele was cited for blocking a sidewalk and was released at the scene after posting $500 bail.
Deputies were first called to the salon more than an hour earlier and left believing that photographers were complying with their requests to keep the area clear. Whitmore said deputies then were called back to find the sidewalk blocked.
“They don’t disperse. They don’t listen to warnings,” Whitmore said, adding that after the arrests were made the others cleared out.
About 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, two other photographers -- Christopher Gonzalez, 21, and Vagn Rauch, 23 -- were booked outside the West Hollywood nightclub Villa, again after they allegedly failed to keep a path clear for passersby and patrons.
Deputies at that scene began warning photographers to disperse shortly after midnight, again over loudspeakers.
About two dozen paparazzi had gathered there, apparently waiting for actress Lindsay Lohan to leave the club.
Gonzalez and Rauch were taken to the West Hollywood station, where they were cited on misdemeanor charges and released on $250 bail. All four face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, authorities said.
Harvey Levin, managing editor of TMZ.com called the arrests “bizarre.”
“We have been saying for months that law enforcement needs to arrest people but for really compromising public safety,” said Levin, who said that two of those detained work for his website.
“There are photographers who are blowing red lights, chasing celebrities, running people off the road and threatening to kill people in order to get a shot. We’re all for a crackdown.”
Levin described the actions of photographers Tuesday night as something “every single news outlet in town has done for years.”
After everything else that has gone on in pursuit of valuable celebrity shots, he said, “it’s bizarre that after watching it all happen, the sheriff’s launching pad is photographers on a sidewalk.”
The arrests this week came about a month after Los Angeles police took four paparazzi into custody on suspicion of reckless driving in the San Fernando Valley.
The men had been following Spears to her Studio City home. At least four others were also stopped by police but were not arrested.
Police alleged that at least one of the men following Spears, who was driving her car, tried to run her off the road.